EDISON – Considering his decision not to screen before local pooh-bahs, Mayor Jun Choi absorbed without emotion the news that the Edison Democratic Party endorsed his primary opponent last Thursday.
Councilwoman Toni Ricigliano will run with the support of former state Sen. Thomas Paterniti’s organization, even as the mayor hopes not only to win reelection running as an independent Democrat, but to recast the party with an army of local committee people also positioned on the June ballot.
“We have built an organization of grassroots citizens who are public-minded, said Choi. “There are no offers of jobs or contracts. We use idealism as the primary reason to serve on the committee, and we are setting up an issues-based organization. We are fundamentally changing the culture of politics in Edison, as an overwhelming number of our members are not municipal employees, and we do not accept contributions from municipal employees. Zero.”
Mike Barfield, a spokesman for the Choi campaign, explained the mayor’s decision not to pursue existing party channels. “He has no interest in being part of the broken political system of the past,” Barfield said. “His is a vision of the future.”
Paterniti said all along that anyone could screen before the committee, but he too read no newsflash in Choi’s actions, as the men have warred for control of the organization with Choi beating the Democrats as an independent Dem in 2005, losing a bid to oust Paterniti as party chieftain, and demolishing Paterniti’s council candidates in 2007.
Middlesex County Democratic Organization Chairman Joe Spicuzzo said he’s staying out of the Edison drama through the primary.
“If Choi were running as an independent in the general election then I would endorse the candidate backed by the local organization, but as this is a case of two Democrats running against each other, I made a commitment not to back either one,” Spicuzzo said.