TRENTON – It must get frustrating and irritating to be Walker Worthy in the midst of those who deride him as little more than a dutiful functionary of the Mercer County Democratic machine, and today, when the third place finisher in the May 8th mayoral contest threw his support behind Assemblyman Reed Gusciora in the June 12th runoff, he pushed back vociferously against that characterization as a negative.
Paul Perez has defined himself as the so-called anti-establishment candidate in the two-man race, his allies all the while high fiving over the humiliating loss they – and Gusciora – dealt to Worthy, whom many in the ether of the Trenton upper-crust had coronated as the natural successor to that broken line of leaders that included Doug Palmer and Eric Jackson.
But Perez has no experience for the job, he seeks, Worthy argued today in his campaign headquarters downtown on North Warren, recognizable faces from that so-called establishment dotting the room in front of the podium where he stood with Gusciora and Councilman Duncan Harrison, who also formally announced his support for the assemblyman.
“Let me tell you this, folks,” said Worthy, deputy clerk of the county. “We need the establishment. We need established people with good relationships to move this city forward. We can’t have a Johnny come lately in office as mayor. “We’ve got to have someone that has a proven record, and Reed has that proven record of helping people.”
Hand claps engulfed the room.
Gusciora made sure to double down on the point when he again took the microphone, pointing out that Perez’s candidacy comes encumbered with more than a few Republicans from the hinterlands, and knocked his rival’s message as the retreaded howling anti-establishment braying of the likes of President Donald J. Trump.
“And we saw how that worked out,” Gusciora observed.
He noted the stern eye of the Trenton Democratic Committee chair in the room, her presence firmly defining the event as Team Democrat, against whatever it was that Perez fronts.
“We shouldn’t take a bet on somebody who says that they can just be the outsider without any plan,” the assemblyman added, referring to Perez. “He doesn’t have a real plan other than he’s ‘the other one.'”
Worthy wasn’t done, though.
“We careful what you see on Facebook,” the former mayoral candidate cautioned. “because some of the people calling me the establishment are the first people who call me for help when they need me. Get it right, folks. Either I’m the establishment that doesn’t do anything or I’m the establishment you call who gets something right.”
Perez was unimpressed.
InsiderNJ caught up with him two blocks away at his headquarters on North Broad.
“We’ve been working on this for six years,” the mayoral candidate said. “We have really done our homework. The fact that the other campaigns are coalescing – to use [Mercer County Executive] Brian Hughes’ words – is not a surprise. If you belong to an establishment, you know, they put out an order and you must follow the order.”
But Worthy, for his part, made the case for Gusciora in crisis mode.
“We all know why we’re here,” said the deputy clerk. “We’re here because we have to elect a new mayor. This is an emergency. We don’t have time for mistakes. We’ve got to get it right this time. Eighty-thousand residents of Trenton have been through a lot for the last eight years. We have some serious issues.
“This man has integrity,” he said of Gusciora, “and integrity is what we need in Trenton.”
Harrison appeared to keep the theme intact when he issued his formal endorsement of Gusciora.
“The city needs someone who’s qualified, competent and committed,” the councilman said. “People say this is the establishment versus the people. No, we are the people.”
At his shoulder, Worthy, on that point in particular, nodded in vigorous agreement.
As if similarly irritated by the ongoing critique and eager to demonstrate distance from the misplaced embodiment of creaky establishment crony, a robust Harrison proceeded to quote from underground poet Gil Scott Heron, who wrote the ultimate anti-establishment classic, “The Revolution will not be Televised.”