RAHWAY — Unless an independent candidate jumps into the race, city voters will be deciding who will serve as the next mayor with the June 3 Democratic primary.
Incumbent Mayor Samson Steinman, running on the Regular Political Organization of Union County slate is being challenged by political strategist James J. Devine, running on the Democrats for Change slate in the primary. No Republicans filed to run for mayor this year.
Steinman, who served on council for 10 years, last fall became the city’s 50th mayor after Mayor Rick Proctor resigned three years into his first term in office. Proctor, a former Union County freeholder, had a number of disputes with City Council members.
Devine has been involved in politics for 35 years and has previously worked on campaigns for former Mayor James Kennedy and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-20th District, but has not held elective office.
Devine said he considers that an asset because those who have served in elective office have done “a terrible job.”
“The anti incumbent feeling is at an all time high,” said Devine, who led 1,150 federal employees as head of the 1990 Census operations in New Jersey, owned several private sector businesses and served as political director with the Democratic State Committee from 1992 to 1993.
Devine said one of the main issues in this year’s election is the 60 percent increase in taxes on city homes in the past 10 years, while companies like Merck received a tax reduction. He said some city homeowners are paying property taxes often two to three times higher than they should be.
He said City Hall has failed residents on a fundamental promise of tax fairness.
Steinman argued that Rahway is heading in the right direction.
In his short time as mayor the city has received $5 million in state, county and non profit funding to improve the local recreation center, while also receiving grants to address flooding and hazardous mitigation and improve facilities like the girls softball field.
Steinman said violent crime here is down more than 35 percent, according to the New Jersey Uniform Crime Report. Devine noted that the same report shows Rahway police solved only 23 percent of the crimes reported in the city and called that “a failure of leadership.”
The mayor, who has a master’s degree in business administration, said he has the experience to lead the city forward. A former Board of Education member who previously ran the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission in Rahway, and formerly served as executive director of the Union County Performing Arts Center, Steinman is serving a 120-day appointment as the Hillside business administrator.