LINDEN—City Council President Robert Bunk is unlikely to get a free ride for the Democratic nomination to challenge Mayor Richard Gerbounka, the independent who defeated former Mayor John T. Gregorio in 2006.
Although Bunk was anointed by party bosses in a closed-door selection process, many Democrats have expressed objections to his candidacy and a growing number of residents are calling for an alternative.
Among the Democrats who are dissatisfied with Bunk are former Sixth Ward Councilman Charles J. Crane and Seventh Ward Councilman Jack Sheehy.
“By choosing an ill-equipped candidate behind closed doors, without as much as a kangaroo court screening process, local political bosses have shirked their responsibility to the Democratic Party and demonstrated once again that they offer zero accountability to the public,” said Crane. “Bob Bunk is the politicians’ choice – not the people’s.”
Sheehy says Councilman Derek Armstead, a senior member of the governing body who has displayed independence and integrity, would be a stronger candidate for the Democratic Party.
“The Democrats in this city are tired of outsiders and political leeches telling us what to do,” said Sheehy. “Power brokers who control the ‘organization line’ do not decide who wins in this city. That decision will be up to the voters in the Democratic Primary Election on Tuesday, June 8.”
“I am flattered that the people would approach me about running for mayor,” said Armstead. “At this point, I have not spoken to our county Democratic chairman, raised money to wage a campaign or taken out petitions but I am weighing the option.”
“I am considering my ability—to not only wage a campaign—but as mayor to set an agenda for Linden’s future that will create jobs, reduce crime and get our unfair high taxes more in line with people’s ability to pay,” said Armstead.
James O. Moore, a former councilman and school board member who headed the 10th Ward Democratic Club for many years, also said he is considering a return to politics as his March 1 retirement as a state Parole Board hearing officer nears.
Moore was a member of the Linden Board of Education from 1988 until 1990, when he was elected to the City Council, where he served until 1993.
Gerbounka expressed confidence that he would win no matter who opposes him, but he says Bunk would be a poor choice for Linden.
“Linden cannot afford to turn back the clock,” said Gerbounka, noting Bunk’s association with Gregorio. “Because of his decisions with the previous mayor we’re in the mess we’re in now.”
“I have a lot of work to finish to return the City of Linden to the people. I’m an independent and I refuse to march in goose step,” said Gerbounka. “For the last three years I’ve been trying to push my philosophy on managing the city and I haven’t accomplished everything I want to do. If I step down, the political machine would jump into the vacuum.”
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