Mayor Derek Armstead was elected chairman of the Linden Democratic Committee on Monday night, defeating state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) by a vote of 39 to 32.
Armstead’s victory over Scutari follows last week’s Democratic primary election, in which the Mayor’s allies won control of a majority of county committee seats in the city as well as four of the five races for City Council.
It is not known if Scutari will be opposed for re-election as the Union County Democratic chairman when committee members assemble Tuesday to reorganize.
Armstead recruited 64 candidates for the 72 county committee seats in Linden, and his slate won a commanding majority in the primary despite a massive spending advantage by Scutari’s slate.
Armstead broke ranks with the Senator last year, after Scutari refused to relinquish his post as municipal chairman when he took over as Union County Democratic chairman following the resignation of Assemblyman Jerry Green, who was elected to lead the party in 2013.
Since becoming county chairman, Scutari dropped dozens of experienced district leaders from the party line merely because they supported his opponent and he manuevered to have the freeholders appoint his top aide as county manager.
During the recent primary, Scutari used about $300,000 of Democratic Party money to advance his faction over a variety of rivals, including party leaders allied with Armstead, Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau, Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, Hillside Mayor Daliah Vertreese and others.
The county chairman’s uncle, Donato Scutari, was Mayor of Venosa, Italy, and served as both member of the Chamber of Deputies and senator in the Italian Parliament, as well as a leading member of the Communist Party.
Armstead was elected to the City Council in 1993 and returned every three years until he became Mayor in 2015. He was re-elected as the city’s chief executive by a record 3,750 votes in 2018.
Scutari is curently the subject of an investigation being conducted by a Linden City Council committee for his absences during the last two years while he was a part-time municipal prosecutor making $85,000 a year.
Armstead said that records show Scutari missed more then 120 days on the job — more than one third of the time he should have been working — over a two year period.
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