PLAINFIELD – Local Democratic Party Chairman Mayor Adrian Mapp sat at the front of the room here this morning on Watchung Avenue in downtown Plainfield and calmly and forcefully told his fellow members how he came to his personal decision to back state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22) to succeed an ailing Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) as the Union County Democratic Committee Chairman.
Mapp recounted a heavy pull for support by Senator Joe Cryan (D-20), an ally of Acting Chair Colleen Mahr, which Mapp said he resisted because of what he believes is Scutari’s commitment to Plainfield, and the senator’s commitment to the assembly seat staying in Plainfield. Mapp said Cryan gave him the impression that Cryan wanted Mapp’s ratification of a deal that would make Linden Mayor Derek Armstead – at war locally with Scutari and now running as Mahr’s acting chair – the assemblyperson to succeed Green, if and when Green retires.
Watch below as a committeewoman challenges Scutari’s initial characterization of his rivals as “kind and nice.”
For the record, Mahr later told the entire room that she believes the seat – should Green vacate it, which she hopes doesn’t happen – absolutely should remain in Plainfield.
“Not even a question to be asked,” she said.
All three candidate for the chairmanship (Scutari, Mahr, and Hillside Democratic Committee Chairman Anthony Salters) – which the county party committee will decide on Feb 21st – made their cases to the 68 members of the local committee, some of whom expressed frustration with Mapp for backing Scutari publically without first consulting them. Mapp pushed back, noting that it was his own endorsement only, even as committee members, some of whom appeared to favor Mahr over Scutari, protested that by going out the way he did, it gave the appearance to Scutari that the whole of the Democratic Committee in Plainfield stood with the senator.
At least one committee member in the room expressed caution to his fellow local Democrats about backing Scutari and empowering Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
“It is like having Sweeney and Christie back,” the committeeman said. “That’s not good for New Jersey,
giving Sweeney a foothold up here.”
Scutari noted his own party roots, and dropped the name of the late Mayor Al McWilliams, father of the New Democratic Reform Movement that gave birth politically to Mapp and his followers, who fought the Green machine for years before finally landing Mapp the mayoralty in 2014.
Seated in a chair at the front of the room to one side of the main dais that furnished the seating places of Mapp, Councilwoman Rebecca Williams and other party lieutenants, Scutari listened intently.
Prior to the three countywide candidates arriving, Mapp told of a late December meeting he had with Cryan at a retirement dinner for retired Freeholder Vernell Wright.
“He asked me whether or not I interested in going to the assembly [in the event of a vacancy] and I told him ‘Of course, the seat belongs in Plainfield,’ Mapp said he told Cryan.
Cryan asked Mapp if he had a succession plan in mind and Mapp told him he did. He said the pair had other conversations regarding the union county manager and prosecutor. The mayor said he told Cryan that the senator-elect and Scutari needed to work out some of the differences they had, and Mapp said Cryan told him he agreed. A few days after the two senators met, Mapp said he took a call from Cryan in the CVS Parking Lot in South Plainfield.
Cryan asked Mapp what he thought about the assembly seat – should it become available, and at this time people heard the worst about an ailing Green, who would later resign the chairmanship to focus on recovering from his illness – going to Armstead.
Armstead and Scutari weren’t friends locally, and Armstead’s up for reelection in Linden this year.
“That did not sit well with me for obvious reasons, because the assembly seat belongs in Plainfield,” Mapp said.
He reiterated his desire to be an assemblyman.
“What if Derek were to run against you?” Mapp said Cryan asked him.
Mapp said he said again that the seat belongs in Plainfield.
Then, according to Map, Cryan asked the mayor if he would support Mahr for county chair and Mapp said he said, “Joe, I cant do that because Colleen has been longing to be an assemblywoman and the seat belongs in Plainfield.”
Failing a way for him to get the job – and Cryan, Mapp said, protested a Mapp chairmanship on the grounds that one shouldn’t simultaneously hold an assembly seat and the county chairmanship – Mapp then told Cryan he planned to support Scutari for chair of the party. Cryan thanked Mapp for his friendship and that was the end of the conversation.
“That’s what transpired, in all candor,” Mapp told the troops.
There was push back.
Two Plainfield committee members allied with Mahr said Scutari appears to be big-footing a woman who is already in the position of acting chair. Mahr was already passed over when she took a crack at the assembly seat and LD22 Democrats instead – with Scutari and Green’s support – backed Assemblyman Jim Kennedy of Rahway.
It’s Mahr’s time. She’s been good to Plainfield, worked in Plainfield, maintained relationships, the argument ran. Mapp countered that Scutari has incomparable connections.
In this video below, watch Committeeman Sean McKenna challenge Scutari:
When he got the chance to speak, Salters, for his part, made the case for himself as that individual who would focus solely on the county chairmanship and not elected office, an encumbrance that both Scutari (Senate) and Mahr (Mayor of Fanwood) possess.
While discussing succession at one point, Mapp touched on the name of Freeholder Linda Carter, and Williams doubled back on that later, asking the mayor to specify whether he favors Carter for mayor in the event that he personally departs the local office. Amid a lot of expressions of support for his service as mayor, even by those who shared their misgivings about his backing for Scutari, Mapp said he had made no such determinations. Councilman Cory Storch all but begged him to stay as mayor, and Mapp reassured the crowd that he hadn’t decided about the future and again made clear his support for the betterment of the ailing Green.
BELOW: Watch Acting Chair Mahr say that if an LD22 vacancy occurs, the seat should stay in Plainfield: