Thursday, January 28, 2010

The early line

Interesting twists and turns on the road to the May 11 Trenton elections.

Wednesday marked the formal announcements of Freeholder Keith Hamilton for Mayor and South Ward resident Christine Donahue for Council At Large.

Hamilton, who apparently moved back into Trenton specifically to run for Mayor, has had a relatively undistinguished tenure as a County Freeholder.

Donahue is little known outside of the South Ward where she worked to help get George Muschal elected in November’s special election to fill the vacancy left by Jim Coston. She was also involved in some of the work to halt the sell off of part of the Trenton Water Works to NJ American Water.

At the same time as Hamilton is officially adding his name to the list of Mayoral wannabes, Wiley Fuller has dropped out of that race and opted to run for one of the three Council At large seats. Fuller ran for Mayor in 2006 and had a rather poor showing.

These moves bring the total of candidates to ten for Mayor and eight for the three Council At Large seats.

Doug Palmer has not signed up to endorse any candidate yet. He's no doubt waiting so he can play the role of "king maker."

The Trentonian reported yesterday that there is a move afoot to reduce the number of black candidates in the mayoral race. We here at the stoop are wondering why only the black candidates for mayor are being scrutinized when they all need serious vetting.

Some early handicapping

Let’s face it; this year’s cohort of candidates is pretty weak in the qualification department.

We have two current council people (Pintella and Segura), both of whom were elected largely due to outgoing Mayor Doug Palmer’s long coat tails and fat checkbook.

To be fair, Segura did have some strong financial support from North Jersey businessmen and his Dominican ancestry garnered political help from Democratic Party bosses who are salivating at the specter of getting a Hispanic mayor elected in Trenton. (Anyone remember the roll call of Dem biggies from then Senator Bob Torricelli, Representative Rush Holt, and on down through State Senator Shirley Turner, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and various elected county officials present at Segura’s 2002 headquarters opening?)

Pintella has always been Doug’s water carrier on council and Segura has played along for all but the last 18 – 24 months of his two terms. Why would we want either of them to serve as Mayor? They should both drop out, now.

Outgoing West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue has long had her eye on the mayor’s office. Now she’s making her move. As a member of council for the past 12 years, she shares some accountability for the many blunders of the current administration (not to mention a few of her own…anyone remember “Stand down officer!”?). She has no business thinking she’s qualified to run this city and should herself, stand down. But she won’t. So the people will decide for her.

Local businessman Frank Weeden is running again. It’s a shame. Frank would probably make an ok councilman. He’s been an outspoken critic of the waste and excesses of the current administration. But that doesn’t mean he’s up to the Mayor thing. This run could cost him his business, ANA Design candles, and that would be a shame for all concerned. Ego is an expensive mistress, Frank.

Right there, we’ve eliminated four of the contenders, one woman, one Hispanic, one white and two blacks. And we have only just begun.

John Harmon, the charismatic former head of the Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of Commerce (MTAACC) is running again. His professional demeanor and business credentials had a lot of people pulling for him four years ago. Harmon’s campaign seemed to be overcome with inertia; he never moved it past his opening position, came in a distant third in 2006 and has hardly been heard from since.

Emmanuel Shahid Watson ben Avraham has changed names and persona more times than Brett Farve has come out of retirement. He was also revealed to be at the center of a questionable state contract that paid his company millions of dollars with little oversight or measured effect. We can cut him from the list for his perpetual posing and hazy ethics.

Two more off the list. Now we’re down to four: Tony Mack, Eric Jackson, Keith Hamilton, and Alexander Brown.

Hamilton, as noted above, is virtually undistinguished in his political career. And his perception as a carpetbagger who moved back into Trenton specifically to run for Mayor isn’t giving him any positive points. Hamilton’s done nothing neither egregiously wrong nor wonderfully outstanding as an elected county official. He’s a non-starter.

Alexander Brown has been on and off and on the school board a few times. He’s headed up the schools’ Facilities Advisory Board which, along with the Schools Development Authority (SDA) and its predecessor the School’s Construction Corporation (SCC), has fumbled the entire high school financing deal. Further, as an appointee of the current administration he shares in culpability for the mismanagement of our failing school system.

Considering Alexander Brown as a viable candidate for Mayor is like saying Shirley Turner should be made a member of the board of directors of Garden State Equality.

This leaves Mack and Jackson, who (along with Segura) are most likely among the top three vote getters.* But placing first, second or third in the race doesn’t mean they are what the city needs.

Jackson is gentlemanly and soft-spoken. He’s overseen the massive Public Works Department and took the reins of the Library Board of Trustees after Mrs. Hayling resigned. Is he Mayoral material? Depends upon whether or not you believe the failings of his department were his fault or predicated by the actions and demands of the vengeful administration troika of Palmer, Gonzalez and Haynes.

Tony Mack is a scrappy fighter who came within a few hundred votes of getting in a runoff with Palmer in 2006. Tony has held responsible positions in city government, union leadership and was a multi-term freeholder (until he fell from favor with the County Dem machine---itself a mismanaged and ineffective organization). Mack’s reticence to readily accept the outcome of the last election and the issue of some bad checks are haunting him about now.

None of the candidates except Mack have yet to put forth any real concrete platform pieces. It is also early in the campaign and most likely the candidates will wait for the policy arguments to be framed by public opinion before going out on a limb and expressing themselves in detail on any topic.

The newspapers are right…there are too many people running for office. And too few real candidates.

*At this time. As with all contests, the betting line will most likely change overtime as the campaign progresses. Stay tuned for updates.


Anonymous said...

This sad list of "contenders" just shows how far Trenton has fallen after 20 years under Palmer.
Almost anyone with a brain has moved out. Those of us with a brain, who are still living in Trenton, have pretty much given up on being elected to public office here. That leaves a sorry list of the deluded, the self-important and the hilarious. Have fun choosing!

Old Mill Hill said...

We noticed there are quotes around the word "contenders."

Very appropriate since none of the candidates are.

There is hope that after this election cycle, amongst the smoke and ruins left from the inevitable collapse of city government, a new day will dawn. Then maybe the posers and wannabes will remain sitting on the curb, head in hands, wondering what happened to their gravy train.

And maybe then, those with sense and ability beyond competitive cunning in the political arena will step up and take charge.


Anonymous said...

Did you check out the last debate on Monday. I think the contenders for Mayor should be out of Harmon, Weeden, Mack,and possibly Jackson. I will encourage everybody thoughto watch jackson when he says he runs a budget of..52, 53, 51 (cant get his number right.