Now is Mayor Jamel Holley’s moment, not just because he will have the support of the Union County Democratic Party, but because the Union County Democratic Party will be counting on him and his local political work to make a statement in Roselle.
Roselle has lacked representation in the legislature since the 2008 meltdown of Neil Cohen, but that’s about to change, or so hopes Holley, who with the endorsement this week of Sheriff Joe Cryan, secured yet another critical piece of the party establishment on his way to succeeding Cryan as an assemblyman in the 20th Legislative District.
If Holley looks like a strong swimmer on his way to landing his party’s nomination in a Democratic Primary, his path to securing a full, two-year term in the Assembly with all attendant political and governmental fixtures in place, won’t be a complete cakewalk.
LD20 never comes easy.
For one, Holley – and probable running mate Annette Quijano (D-20) – are likely to have primary challengers from out of the political organization otherwise known as the Elizabeth Board of Education.
Sources in Elizabeth have already indicated that Board Member Tony Monteiro is gearing up for a run at Quijano.
Wounded, punished in the last legislative elections and pushed back to fight on their own turf in an ongoing board backroom drama, the allies of Monteiro and Rafael Fajardo nonetheless do not want to appear weak as another district-wide cycle accelerates.
Part of their motivation, at least on paper, might include a consideration of other Union County towns where upstart candidates have displaced – or at least shaken up – the establishment, including Plainfield and Linden.
But Holley, in response, says he feels extremely strong in his hometown, one of four towns in LD20, where he backs At-Large Councilwoman Christine Dansereau (pictured) as his City Hall successor.
In the coming weeks, Holley expects to fill the LD20 vacancy created by Cryan’s retirement, a move that will enable him to run for re-election in the June Primary as an incumbent.
He will run on a ticket with mayoral candidate Dansereau.
“I was able to put together a solid team of individuals and I remain as a committee member,” Holley told PolitickerNJ. “I’m totally behind Christine Dansereau, and I’m not going to tolerate outsiders coming into Roselle.”
Holley has spent a decade operating to gain control of the council and become mayor, turning out two-time incumbent Garrett Smith in 2011, solidifying municipal strength and upending and taking control of the local School Board last year.
As part of their latest mopping up exercises, Holley’s team turned out of office local Board of Ed Member Donna Obi, whom Holley ally state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) defeated in 2013.
The mayor feels very confident politically in Roselle as he seeks to flex his political district-wide.
“They should look elsewhere,” said the mayor, of those who might try to seize on his absence locally to take advantage.
A source close to Monteiro said the organization doesn’t disagree with Holley’s assessment.
The mayor is strong on his home turf, and as such, his opponents in LD20 are more likely to focus on drumming up support in Elizabeth and Union than getting involved in hand-to-hand combat in Roselle.
In part, that’s where Cryan’s endorsement truly helps Holley.