Rankled by the process and worried that the New Democratic leadership might have become closer than they’d wish to the horror they beheld, two self-avowed supporters of Mayor Adrian Mapp tonight broke company from the mayor ton the political front o affirm their backing of Fanwood Mayor Collene Mahr for Union County Democratic Committee Chair.
Sean McKenna, 4th vice-chair of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee (PDCC), denounced what he described as a “backroom deal that will yield results for a handful of people and their personal ambitions, at the expense of Plainfield;” while a second PDCC member, treasurer Mary Burgwinkle, likewise chafed under Mapp’s endorsement of state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22) over Mahr for chair of the party.
“We are being asked to hitch our wagon to people [Scutari/Sweeney/Norcross] who have shown little interest in Plainfield but now think we are just amazing,” said McKenna.
“I regret that I need to break from Chair Mapp on this matter,” Burgwinkle wrote. “I worked hard to get him elected mayor and I respect the job that he and his team have done in Plainfield. However, I cannot condone unilateral actions and disrespect for a more than qualified woman who has paid her dues and deserves to be chair.”
Mapp told InsiderNJ that members will have the opportunity to air their differences at a scheduled meeting this coming Saturday.
He said he values everyone’s opinion.
He said he is also confident that following the meeting the committee will stand with him in support of Scutari.
But McKenna and Burgwinkle begged to differ.
There’s a back story that has its roots in a local rivalry between Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) and Mapp, who took over the helmsmanship of the New Democrats when Mayor Al McWilliams died. As a renegade with the ragtag New Dems, Mapp ran for mayor unsuccessfully against Green ally Sharon Robinson-Briggs in 2009, then won in his second try when he forged an alliance of convenience with the establishment-grounded Green in 2013.
A surging Mapp subsequently took over the local party in what became an odd and arguably unlikely welding of old and new Democrats. Green, for his part, found himself in the politically unenviable position of running a county party organization while standing astride a Plainfield organization run by frenemy Mapp.
Now, as the county seeks a replacement for Green as county party chairman and Mapp backs Scutari, the pair of Mapp allies want no part of that deal, and were irritated to find the name of the mayor affixed to Scutari’s list of backers.
“My commitment to Plainfield and the PDCC does not mean that I am a rubber stamp for approving backroom, non-transparent deals that effect the independence of our city and county,” McKenna wrote, in the email obtained by InsiderNJ. “Nick Scutari, our own state senator, is unknown to the vast majority of us because he is rarely [if ever], seen in our city. A city that provided him with over a third of his 2017 primary votes, and over 25% of his general election votes. Now we are asked to support him for UCDC chair over a dedicated and immensely qualified neighbor and friend of Plainfield, Colleen Mahr. So a person who has taken the votes of Plainfield for granted is suddenly our best friend. Nick Scutari has not earned our support.
“Maybe it is time that we stop repeating the same mistake and instead demonstrate that Plainfield is strong and confident in its place within Union County and LD22,” added the local Dem. “It’s time to stop aligning ourselves with people who are only serving their own self-interest and care very little about the progress of Plainfield. I will personally be supporting Colleen Mahr for county chair and Derek Armstead for Vice-Chair. I would rather move forward as a proud city with a large voting bloc than associate with a group that will just expand their power and relegate us, again, to a subservient position.”
A source close to the mayor said there may be some naysayers out there but that the mayor, who won reelection last year, is committed to moving Plainfield forward. Mapp’s allies again underscored that local party members will have a chance to hash out differences at a scheduled meeting this coming Saturday.
Another source noted, “The new Dems are a very even keel group.” Even a hint of boss-like tactics gives them the jitters.
“They hate that,” the source said. “He should have met with the group and got their take before endorsing.”