ELIZABETH – In what could prove to be a political throw-downbetween Elizabeth and Roselle, At-Large Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste said she would like to pursue the Assembly seat vacated today by former Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D-Roselle).
The 16-year City Council veteran said she has government experience and good relations with all of the players involved in 20th Legislative District politics.
Retired from banking, the 46-year old said , "You need a global approach as you act locally, and I think I’ve developed that during my years as an at-large councilwoman."
Cohen resigned today after his district mates last week reported to the Office of Legislative Services that he had pornographic images on his computer.
An early dynamic in the contest to succeed him involves whether or not Cohen’s hometown – Roselle- will field a credible, successful candidate tosubdue the much bigger and politically powerful Elizabeth.
“The replacement will be a minority,” said State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), perhaps the most influential power broker in Union County.
Lesniak would not go into detail about potential picks.
But sources say the power brokers want the seat to stay in Roselle.
"A squeaky clean African-American woman, preferably from Roselle,"said a Union political operative.
More than half of the Roselle’s roughly 20,000 residents are
African-American,and the 20th district, dominated by the City of
Elizabeth, has never had a minority representative in the state
Moreover, Roselle has no freeholders, which means candidates to represent the district would likely come from the council, where Councilwoman Cecilia Dallis-Ricks has an edge.
A phone call placed tothe first term councilwoman'shome this morning was picked up and immediately hung up.
While not interested in the seat herself, Councilwoman Sally Samuel told PolitickerNJ.com that she is hesitant to supporteither Perkins-Auguste or Dallis-Ricks.
"Neil Cohen has been a fixture in Roselle politics, and was respected as a legislator by all," said Samuels. "Whoever gets his seat, I would hope that person has the knowledge of Roselle to serve our community. I’m concerned about what happens. I know that Perkins-Auguste is a longtime councilwoman in Elizabeth, who has garnered the support of a majority of folks in her city. But I’m not 100% sure I would be able to support her."
Samuel said she believes her council colleagues, Christine Dansereau, Jamel Holley and Sylvia Turnage, have a solid foundation of Roselle issues, and would consider supporting any one of them to fill Cohen’s unexpired term.
Dallis-Ricks is too green, she said.
Sources in Elizabeth say that Councilman Manny Grova – who is away on vacation – has also expressed an interest in the Assembly seat.
So has Freeholder Angel Estrada, who did not return phone calls this morning.
Democrats have not yet scheduled a meeting of District 20’s municipal
committees to fill Cohen’s seat in the Assembly, but whether it's Dallis-Ricks, Perkins-Auguste or someone else, top Democrats
say to definitely expect a minority candidate.
Staff writer Matt Freidman contributed to this report.