Democrats for Change team files Union County candidates for June 7 primary

Award-winning Roselle Park photographer and videographer Mario Cornejo will join Patrick Busch, an IT specialist from Summit, and Janet Vera Reynolds of Westfield, as Democrats for Change team candidates for Union County Commissioners.

Reynolds was a member of the original 2010 Democrats for Change team, which launched Linden Mayor Derek Armstead into the office he now holds and nearly ended the career of a longtime Union County Sheriff.

She has been an account executive for large business accounts at Verizon, a company where she has been employed for 25 years.

Reynolds is also a former school board member, former president of a municipal planning board, and a youth mentor. She attended Upsala College and Bloomfield College, where she earned a BA in Psychology.

Busch, who has a three-year-old daughter and a Peruvian wife, was state chairman for the Tulsi Gabbard presidential campaign in 2020. 

Busch is responsible for services such as cybersecurity and business information technology for businesses across the globe.

Busch, Reynolds, and Cornejo will be facing incumbents Bette Jane Kowalski, Sergio Granados, and Rebecca Williams on Tuesday, June 7, although it is uncertain whether the vaunted regular political organization contenders will have the strength they once had.

Union County Democratic boss and state Senate President Nicholas “No-Show Nick” Scutari and his chief of staff, Tony Texeira, who is also the Elizabeth party chairman, were both unavailable for comment but observers say that Kowalski, Granados, and Williams may not wage the kind of race that they have in previous years, due to the admission of their top campaign strategist—Sean Caddle—in a murder-for-hire scandal.

Caddle, the political consultant who admitted to hiring two men in 2014 to kill an operative he once employed, was a longtime ally to Ray Lesniak, a former state senator and Union County Democrat. He managed Lesniak’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign and aided the power broker in a successful takeover of Elizabeth’s school board.

Caddle, 44, whose October guilty plea to conspiracy to commit murder was made public by federal authorities in January, had been heavily involved in politics in Union County and outlying towns through dark money super PACs that faced accusations of illegal coordination with the campaigns of the political establishment’s incumbents.

Lesniak credited Caddle with reversing his political fortunes after Democrats for Change challenger Jerome Dunn nearly dislodged the longtime lawmaker in the 2011 primary.

The two congressional candidates leading the Democrats for Change team in their respective districts are Brian Varela and Akil Khalfani.

Varela is running for an open seat being vacated by Rep. Albio Sires in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District. Khalfani is making his second attempt to oust Rep. Donald Payne Jr. in New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District.

Democrats for Change is the group that launched Armstead’s first run for the top job in Linden and has helped challenge dozens of establishment figures once thought to be secure in their jobs, including the 20th Legislative District lawmakers and others.

With Varela and Khalfani, Democrats for Change hopes to send progressive lawmakers to Capitol Hill, instead of a new generation of corruption and inaction.

Democrats for Change will have allied candidates on the ballot in Roselle and Elizabeth.

Mario Cornejo, Janet Vera Reynolds, and Patrick Busch are the Democrats for Change candidates for Union County commissioner.

Congressional candidates Brian Varela and Akil Khalfani are leading the Democrats for Change team in their respective districts. 

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