Who’s Up and Who’s Down: the Week of Wellington and Waterloo in Union County


Nick Scutari

By winning the chairmanship of the Union County Democratic Committee last night, the 22nd District Senator from Linden became one of the more powerful elected officials in the state of New Jersey, blending a political leadership position together with his government chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In effect, Scutari is now a two-headed senate Cerberus, the only political animal of his kind in Trenton. Even when state Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33) takes charge of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) as expected later this year, Stack won’t have the additional perch of a powerful committee chairmanship like Scutari – although he will have a naturally bigger and more politically potent county in his clutches. As reeling Colleen Mahr allies point out – the chairmanship in Union is for one term… It should be noted, too, the impact Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage had on the contest. He mobilized great turnout for Scutari, and Mahr received 1 or two votes out of an absolutely in-gear Elizabeth led by the mayor and backed up by Scutari COS Tony Teixeira.

Steve Sweeney

The Senate President from the 3rd Legislative District declared his early support for Scutari, throwing numerous caucus members – including women several key lawmakers – into the no man’s land of Union to offer vocal battlefield support and blunt the woman’s movement-appealing attack of Fanwood Mayor (and Acting Chair) Colleen Mahr. In the end, it paid off, as Scutari prevailed over Mahr at the Gran Centurions by a vote of  412 to 341. Ally Scutari occupying the chairmanship means the South Jersey-based Sweeney – very likely eyeballing another statewide bid in 2021 – maintains a strengthened political toehold on a North Jersey battlefront.

Jamel Holley

Dented in the Hillside mayoral tilt, the 20th District Assemblyman notched a more critical win last night with Scutari’s victory. Scutari – instead of having to kowtow to an ally of perennial antagonist State Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) – breathed sustaining life into what has been an oddly dimming, then brightly glowing, then dimming, then glowing, early Holley political career. In a four-town district, the assemblyman has Elizabeth and Roselle; Cryan has Union and Hillside. Scutari breaks the tie in Holley’s favor, and appears to put him on a firmer glide path toward greater political heights.

Adrian Mapp

By aligning himself with Scutari, the Mayor of Plainfield now looks like the obvious heir apparent to Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) when Green – already having vacated the Union County Democratic Committee chairmanship – retires from the assembly.

Tom Malinowski

We’ll see how it goes, but with momentum and money at his back, the CD7 candidate has built more bridges with the Scutari wing of the Democratic Party in Union than with the Mahr wing. Scutari ally (and Union County Dems Executive Director) Nick Fixmer told InsiderNJ that he and his partner Ed Oatman (who’s Scutari’s former chief of staff and now the general manager of the county) are interested in working for Malinowksi in some kind of political advisory capacity. Fixmer was seen squiring Malinowski around Atlantic City last year as the congressional hopeful prepared for the teeth of his run. We’ll watch this one closely. Look for Fixmer to stay on as ED.

Ed Kologi

The veteran attorney from Linden this week successfully made the Scutari argument in Superior Court for an open voting process at the convention. Legal negotiations finally produced paper ballot mechanics, but Kologi was able to land the critical caveat of requiring committee people to affix their names to their individual ballots.


Colleen Mahr

The Fanwood Mayor gave a good accounting of herself on the campaign front, determinedly fighting in the streets, from town hall to town hall, and in court, but finally came up short last night in her bid for the chairmanship of the Union County Democratic Party. It’s Mahr’s second significant political loss, on the heels of her narrowly failed 2015 bid to land a 22nd District Assembly seat.

Joe Cryan

One of the most talented Democratic Party politicians in the state of New Jersey, who fought with Governor Chris Christie when many others ran and hid, the scrappy, 20th District senator who learned politics on the sawdust covered floorboards of Essex County, sustained a loss last night with the victory by Scutari over Cryan ally Mahr. The outcome of the convention has insiders wondering about Cryan’s political lifespan in a majority minority district with Holley energized and Scutari presumably in Holley’s corner. There are those who say it’s over, pointing to a likely Scutari-backed challenge by the assemblyman of Cryan in 2021, but Cryan – who generated 90 out of 90 votes in hometown Union Twp. – has appeared close to expiring before and flashed back into action.

Derek Armstead

Up for reelection this year, will the mayor of Linden be able to walk through Scutari’s wrath locally? He thinks so, he told InsiderNJ hours before yesterday’s convention, but Mahr’s vice chair ally will have to stare down 5th Ward Councilwoman Rhashonna C. Cosby in the June Primary.

Christine Dansereau

At war locally with Assemblyman Holley – a onetime friend – Dansereau endorsed Mahr for county committee chair, and must cope with payback dynamics as she faces reelection.

Linda Weber

The CD7 candidate must head back to the trenches of trying to land the Democratic Party nomination, now facing the irritating probability of Malinowski occupying better footing with Scutari and company in critical Union County.

Bill Northgrave

Representing Mahr, the classically educated veteran attorney made his case for a machine vote special convention this week but failed to convince Superior Court Judge Katherine Dupuis. In negotiations, Northgrave did secure paper ballots – but apparently Kologi (See above) was able to finagle name designations on individual votes.

Paula White

As detailed in this Tom Moran column, White – after having been introduced to staff and praised for her qualifications- mysteriously lost her job as assistant commissioner of the Department of Education. The transgression? She served as state director for Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group at odds with the powerful New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), a key Governor Phil Murphy ally.

Salomon Melgen

The eye doctor pal of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today received a 17-year sentence and orders to pay $42.6 million in restitution to Medicare.

George and Gail Graham

According to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), which filed a complaint against them, the Sussex County freeholder candidate and treasurer in 2013 respectively failed to report currency contributions and failed to report the correct contributor information to the candidate’s campaign account, among other allegations.





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