Salters Ends His Union County Dem Chair’s Bid, Throws Support to Mahr

ELIZABETH – And then there were two.

On the same day that a judge ruled in favor of open voting in a county committee election of a new Democratic Party chair in Union County, Hillside Democratic Chairman Anthony Salters dropped out of the contest and declared his support for Acting Chair Colleen Mahr over state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22).

Salters is good for 19-20 Hillside votes.

“The open ballot court decision on Tuesday basically derailed my candidacy for Chairperson of the Union County and any hope to be victorious,” Salters said. “I truly believe with the help of many we would have unified and galvanized the UCDC to open up its tent much wider then currently existing. At this level we all have egos and this election is certainly not for the meek. I belong here but reality has dictated it won’t happen for me now as Chairperson. I have checked my ego for the greater good.”

The declaration by the local chairman came as Mahr and her allies attempted to shake off the Tuesday sting of failing to convince Judge Katherine Dupuis to enjoin a machine ballot election in the Gran Centurions Wednesday evening.

Salters had joined forces with Mahr in the courtroom to secure a closed, machine ballot process, arguing that committee members fear reprisals if they don’t back Scutari.

Now, he formally threw his support behind the acting chair in the most contentious race for the party chairmanship in this county in a generation. Sources on both sides of the countywide battle line said the judge’s decision today gave Scutari a strong toehold toward claiming a chairmanship vacated by the retirement of a then-ailing Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22).

“I am sincerely endorsing Colleen Mahr to be our next Chairperson,” Salters said. “She has been tireless, honest and inclusive. She was sensitive enough to understand the importance of why a closed ballot vote protected so many UCDC members. She has made women as well as men proud and motivated by her enthusiasm during this campaign. The Democratic tent in Union County will certainly expand as we work together. I wish Colleen Mahr was not a part time Mayor but she has less time consuming responsibilities then her opponent.

“This gives her a shot in the arm,” he added, referring to his drop-out and endorsement of Mahr less than 24 hours prior to open voting in Clark.

Over nearly the past month, Mahr and Scutari have fought a hard contest.

Salters – an eloquent and confident public speaker who forged an alliance last year with state Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) in the Hillside Mayor’s contest, which the Cryan-Salters candidate, Dahlia Vertreese ultimately won in a  runoff election – insisted on a jump in to the collision, declaring his own candidacy a half week after Scutari.

Tonight, his bid came to an end.

“I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Senator Scutari personally,” the HIllside Democratic Committee Chairman said. “He is tough, has plenty of respect and connections in Trenton and around New Jersey. I am proud he represents a portion of Union County. My worry is as powerful as he is now as a State Senator, Chair of the Judiciary committee,  Municipal Chair in Linden and now Union County Democratic Chairperson where is the check and balance? This definitely is no knock on Senator Scutari but is a question that cannot be overlooked or glossed over. It can be a politically dangerous situation. I don’t see any of the other 20 counties in New Jersey with a Chairperson potentially so powerful and virtually “uncheckable.”

Mahr starts her trek into the convention Wednesday evening with the voting bloc controlled by her ally  Cryan (about 100 committee votes) in Union Township. Scutari starts with 125 odd votes in Elizabeth, the crux of his would-be empire, overseen by Chief of Staff Tony Teixeira, who with his former boss, former state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), oversaw the eradication of the Elizabeth Board of Ed from the municipal party committee. Scutari can also claim the bulk of his hometown of Linden, Rahway and whatever Plainfield Democratic Committee Chairman Adrian Mapp delivers out of the county’s Queen City. Mahr has her hometown of Fanwood (but for Freeholder Al Mirabella, who’s with Scutari), and key suburban support to offset the advantages Scutari has in the cities.

Cities versus suburbs.

Men versus women.

Those have been broad characterizations of the contest.

“I just want tomorrow night to be over,” one source groaned to InsiderNJ, citing strong arm tactics and intensified feelings among once seemingly friendly same-party members turned pitched same-party antagonists.

Another source said he doesn’t envy whoever wins the scheduled special convention.

“That person gets to rule over a county in ruins,” the source moaned.

Optimistic, Salters said he wants Mahr to lead.

“I urge my supporters to help establish the proper check and balances of power within the UCDC by supporting Colleen Mahr for Chairperson on Wednesday night,” the local chairman said.

 

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