Ready Or Not

UNION COUNTY – Political insiders say voters here are not ready for a black sheriff while others point to Barack Obama as evidence that the racial divide has been broken in America.

Contested primary elections for county sheriff, Linden mayor and Rahway mayor pit white insiders against black candidates who are part of the Democrats for Change slate on Column B.


“Linden is not ready for a black mayor,” said Council President Robert Bunk, a retired police officer who is running for that job on the regular political organization line. In an exchange that took place inside Bianca’s restaurant on Irving Street in Rahway, Councilman David Brown told Roselle resident Kevin Brister the same thing.

Those viewpoints are disputed by challengers who note that there is an overarching desire for change among voters, including Democratic loyalists who frequently vote in primaries. Brister says he angrily replied, “That’s the kind of thinking that’s holding us back.”

“People don’t care if a candidate is white, black or Hispanic as long as they have the qualifications to perform the duties,” said Rahway mayoral candidate Renee Bridges Thrash.

“I am offended when people even think that way,” said Diego Padilla, a city council candidate in Elizabeth’s First Ward. “It should be about character, vision, and dedication to public service. Even experience is only a good thing when the results are positive, and the people in power have made a mess of things.”

On Tuesday, June 8 voters will choose nominees for sheriff, county clerk and three freeholders along with a long list of local elected officials, including at least 20 contested offices. The elections may not provide an ultimate answer to any question about nagging racism, although observers note that the Column B slate includes a more diverse selection, with four black men, seven black women, seven Hispanic men, three Latinas, one white woman and two white men.

Eleven regular political organization candidates facing challengers are white men, with just two black women, one Hispanic man, two Hispanic women among the rest. In addition to the racial balance and near equality among the sexes, the qualifications among Democrats for Change are said by some to be far superior to those of the political insiders although the machine politicians command a vast bankroll and government public relations capacity.

Voters in some predominantly minority areas report that teams of canvassers paid by political bosses are engaging in a voter suppression scam, enticing residents to apply for ‘vote by mail’ ballots in an effort to control their selection or prevent voting at the polls on election day.

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