PLAINFIELD – The Women for Progress in Plainfield event was advertised as a mayoral forum and as such the candidates in the mayor’s race occupied their seats behind their name plates on the dais at the front of the room in the basement of the Plainfield Public Library when Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield) appeared.
“At this point, Linda Stender has told me she’s running with me, but meanwhile, I can’t afford to be taken for granted,” he would explain later to PolitickerNJ.com. “The people need to hear what I have to say.”
For the moment, there were some stunned looks exchanged as the veteran legislator went to the front of the room – and sat down beside the mayoral candidates wearing an unruffled expression, as though nothing were amiss, as though ready for the questions coming his way.
The mayoral candidates’ forum began, and as it did, with the assemblyman still seated beside those vying for local office, a man in the audience blurted out at Green, “Are you a candidate for mayor?”
A commotion ensued, and the whispered words of “Linda Stender” could be heard in the crowd. If Green was there participating in the forum, where was Stender, the question coming with some urgency as rumors abound this week that the assemblywoman is preparing not to run in the general election and in pursuit of a seat on the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
“This country and this state are in a crisis,” Green announced, quelling the crowd. “Six months ago, they needed a roof on the high school. The Board of Education said no money was available. I got them $600,000 to get that roof fixed. I want to talk about solutions.”
A man spoke with a muffled, operative’s voice into a cell phone in the back row of the audience, “You’d better get the hell over here,” and moments later, as another mayoral candidate among the half dozen in the race made an opening statement, Rick Smiley entered the room.
The New Democrat and primary challenger to Green and Stender on a ticket with anti-establishment mayoral candidate Councilman Adrian Mapp went to the dais and when there was a moment, interjected, “This was going to be a mayor’s forum. It seems I was left out so I wouldn’t be here to present a cogent argument. I feel very set up by this process.”
Neither Stender nor Stender’s staff returned phone calls today concerning her status as a candidate for re-election to the Assembly, as sources in the Democratic Party confirmed rival Republican candidate Martin Marks’s assertion that the state is in the midst of conducting background checks on Stender in expectation of her BPU candidacy.
Green told PolitickerNJ.com he had asked the Women for Progress in Plainfield if he could participate in the event tonight. When the moderator asked the audience if anyone objected to the assembly candidates participating in impromtu fashion alongside the mayoral candidates, few did, although one voice cried, "It's too late!"