Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Freeholder seat: Carter to replace Van Blake as candidate

FREEHOLDERS: Van Blake loses endorsement, Carter as replacement

(Five items: Oldest to newest) plus PLAINFIELD TODAY and JERRY GREEN'S PAGE

Dems dump Van Blake in Union County

By Max Pizarro | March 8th, 2010 - 1:08pm

Union County Democratic Committee Chair Charlotte DeFilippo and Assemblyman Jerry Green Green (D-Plainfield) this morning told Freeholder Rayland Van Blake of Plainfield that he wouldn't be getting the party line to run for a second term.

"As far as I can tell, they're looking to basically flip years in the upcoming election as far as the freeholder seat is concerned, between Linden and Plainfield, and I get bumped out because of that," said Van Blake, a former Plainfield City councilman and television actor who won off the line in 2007 as a member of the New Democrats.

"The assemblyman and the county chairman told me flat out that's what it was," Van Blake added.

There's a mayor's race in Linden this year, and Democrats want a freeholder candidate to help create line strength on the ballot in their bid to upend independent Mayor Richard Gerbounka.

Council President Robert Bunk, the Democratic Party candidate for mayor, has trouble on the ground in Linden owing to the anti-organization mayoral candidacy of Councilman Derek Armstead.

Moreover, the county's lone freeholder from Linden, Nance Ward, moved to Westfield.

Van Blake says the party's dumping him to run a Linden-based freeholder candidate.

"It would appear that way," he say, when asked if he believes the reasoning is to stregthen Bunk's bid against Gerbounka.

But that wasn't part of the meeting the freeholder had today.

"They told me I didn't have the support locally so they weren't going to take the chance," Van Blake said. "I know I didn't have the support of the mayor but I do have the support of the people. The New Democrats are still supportng me."

On his way in to a meeting with Green, Van Blake would not immediately comment on his next move until after he speaks with the veteran assemblyman

DeFilippo: Van Blake 'disappointed' as freeholder

By Max Pizarro | March 8th, 2010 - 4:39pm

Union County Democratic County Chair Charlotte DeFilippo says Freeholder Rayland Van Blake is a nice guy.

"I like him, he's charming, but he has a tremendous amount of commitments," she said of the Plainfield freeholder she relieved of the party line this morning.

"There's a place for any good Democrat in the party," DeFilippo added. "He's just disappointed. You have to decide, or people will decide for you. People didn't see him at a lot of things - your involvement in county events has to be higher than the average person's - and people are disappointed. Do I like him? Absolutely. I just think he has to focus on one thing."

Van Blake's allies believe they have a Plainfield version of Cory Booker in the making in the television actor with a financial background, a former footfall standout in Plainfield.

But star power potential wasn't enough for DeFilippo, who said Van Blake simply didn't dig substantially enough into the freeholder job during his single term in office.

The county chair denied she intends to fill the seat with a candidate from Linden.

"I fully expect there will be a candidacy out of Plainfield," she said. "There will be somebody else who's high energy. It will be somebody from Plainfield.

"Would I take a Lindenite if no one was available?" DeFilippo added. "Absolutely."

The party will have a candidates' screening on Wednesday night.

Scutari: new freeholder candidate will be from
Plainfield or Linden - probably Plainfield

By Max Pizarro | March 9th, 2010 - 9:19am

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) didn't protest the Democratic County Committee's decision to deny the party line to Union County Freeholder Rayland Van Blake.

"He's a nice guy, but we're going to respect the committee process," Scutari told

Union County Democratic Committee Chair Charlotte DeFilippo said yesterday that Plainfield would be her first town of choice in seeking a Van Blake replacement, but didn't rule out Linden, which lacks a freeholder and is the scene this year of a mayoral contest.

"Both of those (Plainfield and Linden) have been considered, and one of those towns will certainly be represented - probably from Plainfield, in the near future," Scutari said.

Green backs Carter for freeholder seat in Union

By Max Pizarro | March 9th, 2010 - 12:07pm

Although he won't support Union County Freeholder Rayland Van Blake, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield) says his city will have a freeholder candidate on the Democratic Party line this year.

"I am calling on all of the county chairs and asking them to support (Plainfield Councilwoman) Linda Carter," Green told

Like Van Blake, Carter comes out of the political fold of the Plainfield New Democrats.

Chair of the Democratic Party in Plainfield, Green said Van Blake - a budding television actor and freshman freeholder trying to juggle government and the demands of his entertainment career - had no support for re-election among local Dems: not among the establishment ranks, and not among the New Democrats.

A rare point of agreement between two feuding camps, and useful considering Union County Democratic Chair Charlotte DeFilippo's warning to Green that if the warring factions in Plainfield couldn't present a candidate they could agree on, she would turn to Linden - where she could use a freeholder candidate to build ballot strength for her mayoral candidate.

"When was the last time Adrian Mapp and I agreed on something?" said Green, referring to his political antagonist, who last year ran against Green's ally, Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson Briggs, and lost.

Mapp is himself a former freeholder and organization Democrat who lost Green's support and the party line in 2007 and subsequently became leader of the New Democrats.

"As the chairman, I wanted to give the county respect in terms of their concerns," added the assemblyman. "I reached out to Adrian Mapp (chair of the New Democrats) and the mayor and all the key players so they all understood what was going on. No disrespect to Rayland but a lot of people were complaining about him not spending enough time on the freeholder board. What we did was come up with is an alternate plan."

Green said he told Van Blake that if other chairs backed him, he would support him, but no one wanted to give the freeholder another shot.

"We all agreed that if there was going to be a problem with Rayland, we would present Lynda Carter, and so right now, I am calling all the county chairs on her behalf," said Green. "The New Democrats are not happy with Rayland's attendance record, and now we have a quality candidate."

The screening committee is scheduled for tomorrow evening.

Green looked at the positive.

"This is the first time we've all come together," he said. "They feel Rayland's a nice guy, but agree that you can't just show up on Thursday and expect that to be the extent of the job. I didn't just make the decision on my own. Lynda Carter is a New Democrat. Everybody understands I work very hard at what I do. If someone wants me to stick his neck out for a losing cause then I wish him luck."

The 31-year old Van Blake went to Green's office yesterday and complained, but the veteran, 71-year old Green said he stood his ground.

"You have to work at this business," Green said. "You can't just expect things are going to be handed to you on a platter. Look, I was 40 years old when I was kicked off the line because I didn't take my freeholder job seriously. I came back and I've never lost an election since. Rayland's been given the opportunity to figure this out ten years earlier than I did. If he wants to blame me, fine - but I know better than anyone, it's a valuable lesson."

Armstead picks up petitions to run for mayor of Linden

By Max Pizarro | March 9th, 2010 - 1:43pm

Linden 4th Ward Councilman Derek Armstead on Friday obtained petitions to run for mayor but hasn't yet declared his intentions officially in what at this point amounts to a piece of anti-establishment kabuki aimed at riling the local Democratic Party organization.

Armstead said if he runs he wouldn't be a spoiler in a primary against establishment Democratic Council President Robert Bunk.

"I would beat Bunk if I ran against him," boasted Armstead, who won re-election off the line in 2008. "How do you sell yourself as a vehicle of change when you have been council president for ten years?"

Armstead, a county employee in the IT department, has been on the council for 17 years.

This would be his first run for mayor.

If Bunk had talked to him about succeeding him as council president, "We would be having a totally different discussion right now," admitted Armstead, the lone black on the governing body. "But the Democratic Party of Linden has not been very good at all to my community."

Armstead said Bunk has already fixed his sights on 8th Ward Councilwoman Michelle Yamakaitas as his successor, the council's only woman.

"Discussions with me would have had to happen a long time ago," the councilman said. "In the next couple of months they couldn't make any gestures that would reverse the trend. Right now, people are asking me to run because they really think I have a chance to win, and we're giving it a lot of consideration."

If Armstead gets in the race, he would be fighting Bunk in June for a general election shot in November at Mayor Richard Gerbounka, an independent.

"Gerbounka's an independent, I'm a Democrat and Gov. Christie's a Republican," said Armstead. "It doesn't matter what political party you belong to, people are losing their homes. My belief is people like Bob Bunk are obstructionist and have tried to sabotage Gerbounka in what amounts to a betrayal of the public.

"If Robert Bunk becomes the nominee, I am a Democrat, I've always been a Democrat... that's the way I'll leave it. Sometimes primaries get nasty, and I don't think he's a very strong candidate."

As an off-the-line Democratic candidate in 2008, Armstead won with 63.06% of the vote.

He remembers Freeholder Rayland Van Blake campaigning against him that year. Now the party is dumping the Plainfield-based Van Blake, in part, Armstead believes, because Democrats want to run a freeholder candidate in Linden.

"They used him to try to get rid of me and now they're saying it's my fault that they're getting rid of him," Armstead said. "You can't make this stuff up."

For the record, Union County Democratic Chair Charlotte DeFilippo said she would turn to Linden only if Plainfield couldn't unify behind a Van Blake replacement, and today Assemblyman Jerry Green, chairman of the local Democratic Party, said the city's Democrats have come together around the candidacy of At-Large Councilwoman Linda Carter, a New Democrat.


Friday, 3/5/2010:  "County Dems dumping Van Blake from Freeholder slot?"
Monday, 3/8/2010:  "Van Blake dumped. Will Green put up with loss of Black Freeholder seat?"
Monday, 3/8/2010:  "Freeholder seat:  Robinson-Briggs or Carter?"


Monday, 3/8/2010:  "Straightening out this Freeholder fiasco"

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About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.