CLARK – Packed parking lot.
Buses idling out front.
Proceedings at the special Union County Democratic Convention appear ready to begin.
There’s Acting Chair Colleen Mahr at the front of the room.
“Good evening, Union County Democrats,” declares Mahr.
700 plus county committee members present.
Actually, check that.
Of 844 eligible members, 745 are present.
Here comes County Sherriff Pete Corvelli to lead the room with the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Can’t hear in the basement,” someone cries.
That’s Elizabeth, Berkeley Heights and New Providence down there.
They were put in the basement, as in the actual basement.
Four other towns went in an upstairs side room.
The rest in the main, balloon-decked room.
“Can’t hear in the basement,” someone crows again.
Mahr praises the ailing former Union County Dems Chair Jerry Green and wishes him a full recovery.
“Jerry was my assemblyman in the 22nd District,” says Mahr.
“She said was,” someone says.
Janice Siegel, Westfield Democratic Committee chair, presents executive committee meeting summary.
After being interrupted, she asks if she should start over.
Audible groans as she starts again.
There circulates an assessment of the bodies in the room. An unofficial count put Mahr’s hard total at 350, which appears to give her rival in the chair’s contest, state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22), the edge.
“Our goal here tonight is to make sure that every vote is counted, and if there are any issues we will address them before the vote,” says Mahr.
Rules committee present. Two teams of attorneys present.
Two chairs object that their tallies are less than those present. Hairston says the challenges have been reviewed and denied.
Paper ballots, the acting chair says.
Those issued wrist bands will receive paper ballots.
“Open ballot,” someone yells.
Each vote goes in a box. The boxes get carried into an adjoining room. Then the count will begin.
The committee members will sign and print their names, and then fold the pieces of paper into a ballot box. The box will be counted by the chair of the respective municipal committee. Results? Tabulated and the winner declared.
Everyone’s marveling at turnout at the Gran Centurions.
93 bodies from Union Twp. are in the room. They’re seen as Mahr-friendlies.
113 bodies from Elizabeth are in the room. They’re seen as Scutari-friendly.
“Having people print and sign their names defeats her core argument,” an observer groans.
Freeholder Bruce Bergen reads from the bylaws.
Stating that the bylaws require the chair to count the votes, Jill Lazare says the Rules Committee will take it under advisement, leading to prolonged bickering and side conversations.
“This is a sh-t show,” gripes one member.
Now here it comes.
Rhashonna C. Cosby of Linden charges to the front of the room and demands an open vote, per the court’s ruling.
“We raise our hands,” she says.
Mahr states that each side reached an agreement to instead allow this process.
Calls for order.
“Oh, my God,” Mahr says.
Apparently the paper ballots in the basement cannot be found.
The acting chair calls for order, reminding people that this is “an historic moment.”
Now she asks for nominations and seconds for the candidates.
Legal counsel apparently said there’s no need for nominations.
The voting process has a 30-minute deadline.
Now there’s another announcement.
The committee members don’t have to sign their names. They only have to check off the name of either of the two candidates.
Wait a minute.
Now they say they have to also sign their names.
There’s a discrepancy, it seems.
Now, the committee resolves the issue.
Name signing is required.
And they’re off.
Union County Democratic Committee voting begins at the Gran Centurions in Clark.
They settle in to the process.
General milling around.
There goes Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp up to cast his vote.
“Will he be the vice chair with Scutari if Scutari wins?” someone mentions in passing.
As the chair of the local Democratic Committee, Mapp begins passing the box around to his committee members. They deposit their votes in the box.
Anthony Salters, the Hillside Democratic Committee chair, appears to have his troops in gear.
Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) troops by with a box in hand.
Calls for the delivery of boxes.
They are in the count room.
Rahway goes 41-1 Scutari.
But no one ever thought he would be anything except strong in Rahway.
Linden goes 50 to 20 for Scutari.
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage says Scutari has won.
He tells the towns in the basement.
Scutari has 383 votes with several towns not reporting.
“Scutari will have 400 plus when it’s done,” says the mayor.
But there’s nothing official at this time.
It’s razor (shocking military historical reference coming up) thin in Union…
“A damned near thing,” a committee member tells InsiderNJ quoting Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo.
It’s looks like Scutari, but that’s unofficial – they’re still tabulating.
“Cryan got a peek under their skirt for ’19,” says a source, referring to the Scutari machine.
Lawyers head to the count room.
Officially, they’re still counting.
But people begin to head for the exits.
“Why?” A Mahr partisan grouses. “Why did she agree to having people put names on paper?”
That was the deal, someone suggests.
Mahr wanted machines.
Scutari wanted hands.
He agrees to paper over hands if they provide their names.
That’s how the vote went forward tonight amid acrimony over process.
“But that’s all he wanted,” the source groans, referring to the winner. “A way to find out how you voted by any means.”