ROSELLE – Now serving his second term as mayor of this Union County town of 20,000 residents, Roselle Mayor Garrett Smith threw his name into the mix today as a possible successor to Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D-Roselle), who resigned this morning.
"I’m definitely exploring the option of seeking that Assembly seat," Smith told PolitickerNJ.com. "I’m looking forward to having conversations with leaders of the Democratic Party."
Twice an off-the-line candidate for mayor who squeaked by in his last election by 300 votes, Smith is no darling of the Union County Democratic Party.
But he said his primary battles have been with Cohen, who was chair of the Roselle Democrats.
"He was really the person who was the issue, other than that there is no issue," said Smith. "I’m still trying to grasp the whole thing, but I’m open. I want to try to find a way for Roselle to be fully represented."
He said he has not yet had any discussions with Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) or Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the two heavyweights in the process. Discounting Smith based on past fights, party sources said "it will be zero degrees in the middle of July in New Jersey before Garrett Smith gets to the legislature."
Some Roselle names drifting in the political atmosphere – Councilwoman Cecilia Dallis-Ricks chief among them – don’t especially impress the mayor, in no small part because they have been Cohen allies.
Councilman Jamel Holley – not a leading contender for Cohen’s seat – is a former Cohen chief of staff.
Of leading contender Dallis-Ricks, Smith said, "She’s been on the Board of Ed, but has been a very divisive figure on our council."
Sources say Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage supports Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste for the vacated seat, while almost everyone else within the upper echelons of the county party structure likes the fact that Dallis-Ricks, as a young, first term councilwoman "doesn’t carry a lot of baggage."