How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

The Trenton mayor's race

Let me begin this column by indicating that I supported Assemblyman Reed Gusciora to be Trenton's next Mayor. I felt he had the best qualifications to lead the revitalization of Trenton. I was very surprised that the Democratic establishment didn't agree with my choice and didn't get behind Gusciora's candidacy until the June 12th run-off election between Gusciora and Paul Perez.

Compared to the rest of New Jersey, Mercer County politics is generally pretty tranquil. The Democrats, the predominant party in Mercer, run a relatively low-keyed non-dictatorial operation. When you compare it with Hudson County, where I spent a few years, it is downright tranquil.

I recently heard former Governor Jim Florio interviewed by Steve Kornicki about his new autobiography Standing On Principles. Governor Florio told what happen in Camden County when he tried to buck the organization and support Bill Bradley in a primary for the Senate against Richard Leone, former State Treasurer. Suffice to say, it was hard-ball politics with the boss of the Camden Democratic Organization, Camden Mayor Angelo Errichetti, kicking Florio off the ticket and forcing him to run on separate column with Bradley and without freeholder candidates. This kind of strong-armed politics is not the Mercer way.

You get a pretty good indication of how a political party operates by the way they run their county convention where Committee men and woman decide who will run on the party line in the primary. In recent years the Democratic Party county convention has been run on the up-and-up with candidates allowed to make their case to delegates at the convention, without a lot of arm-twisting. Janice Mironov the long-time Mayor of East Windsor and the new Democratic Party chair, ably and fairly chaired many of these conventions.

The titular head of the Mercer County Democratic party, County Executive Brian Hughes, rarely flexes his considerable political muscle. The party uncharacteristic tried to dictate the outcome in the May 8th election for Trenton's mayor's race and lost big time. For the second time the County Executive supported the candidacy of Walker Worthy Jr., the son of Cookie Worthy, a long-time Democratic stalwart who has been the Clerk of the Board of Freeholders for two decades.

Not only did Worth do poorly this year he also finished third for Mayor in 2014. Yet Hughes and other key members of the Mercer political establishment including Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, former Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello, Freeholder Anthony Verrelli and various labor unions supported Worth. A key missing supporters was William Watson, Jr., a knowledgeable veteran of Trenton politics, who opted to support Duncan Harrison, Jr. State Senator Shirley Turner, who is exceedingly political adroit, opted to remain neutral in the May election.

County Executive Hughes and his chief political guru and Chief of Staff, Kelly Gange, demonstrated a lack of political acumen in supporting Worthy, who was unable to make the June 12th run-off in a field that included five African-American candidates. The organization demonstrated a surprising inability to mount an effective GOTV (get out the vote) effort for Worthy. This failure should provide solace to the dormant Mercer County Republican Party. I would not be at all surprised, based on the Party's poor showing in Trenton, to see Republican's statewide take a renewed interest in fielding candidates in the 15th district (especially in lieu of Republican Hemant Marathe's victory in West Windsor).

The $64,000 question is why they opted to support Worthy over Gusciora on May 8th? It was really hard to make the case for Worthy over Reed based on their qualifications (see my March 15th column "What qualities should look for in city's next mayor"). Granted Gusciora didn't have a lot of managerial experience, but neither did Walker Worthy and it is really hard to discount Reed's many years of legislative experience. I think the establishment's endorsement was all about who the party felt it would have more control over and secondarily about not alienating African-American voters who constitute about 40 percent of Trenton's voters. The safer more adroit move would have been to follow Senator Turner's lead and wait to make an endorsement until after the run-off.

Although I agree with the party's decision to support Gusciora in the run-off based on government experience trumping business experience as a relevant criteria for serving as Mayor, the Party stuck their finger in the eye of Mercer County Hispanic voters by not supporting Paul Perez who outpolling Gusciora in May 8th election by 740.

The correct and respectful political decision for the party now is to recognize the growing hunger in the Latino community to be recognized as a potent electoral force in the 15th legislative district by filling Gusciora's seat with a Hispanic leader with the requisite skill-set to excel in the Assembly. There are a number of highly-qualified female Hispanics policy wonks who reside in the 15th legislative district. I have no idea whether any of them would have an interest in serving in the Assembly but all of them would be exceptional legislators with acute insights regarding the needs of the constituents of the district. Selecting them would be fantastic from both a public policy and politically perspective.