More than 50 residents sent the following letter to the Piscataway Democratic Organization and the Piscataway Municipal Council, urging them to choose a Democrat with a proven track record of community service to fill the open seat on our Township Council. We believe it would be a statement of both good government and Democratic Party unity to choose one of the candidates who stood for election in the Primary just last year.
April 26, 2021
Dear Chairman Light, Vice Chair Fernicola and members of the Piscataway Democratic Organization,
We recommend three candidates for your consideration to fill the vacancy that currently exists on the Township Council, stemming from the untimely passing of Kenneth Armwood. As Chanelle Scott-McCollum has been sworn in to replace Mr. Armwood on the County Board of Commissioners, the at-large seat on the Council previously held by Commissioner Scott-McCollum must be filled without delay and in accordance with NJSA 40A:16-11.
As you are undoubtedly aware, Democrats in Piscataway had a robust primary last year in which thousands of voters cast ballots. Three candidates were runners up in that election, Laura J. Leibowitz, Ralph Johnson and Kamuela “Nikki” Tillman. Given that all three of these talented and dedicated community members have already won the support of thousands of Piscataway residents, we urge you to choose one of them to fill the at-large vacancy.
Traditionally, the municipal Democratic Organization has convened meetings to consider candidates for vacancies that occur in this manner. In other communities, the municipal committees solicit candidates and ask for recommendations. After this letter was launched by voters, the Piscataway Democratic Organization announced its plans to nominate a replacement on May 5.
We believe it is more than reasonable for voters to expect that candidates who had a strong showing in a recent election would be immediately considered for this seat. Although New Jersey law does not require a run-off or another primary in this case, it would be a statement of both good government and Democratic Party unity to choose one of the candidates who stood for election just last year. Thus, we submit the candidates below for your consideration, along with some biographical information about each of them.
Ralph Johnson: Ralph and his family have resided in Piscataway for nearly 20 years. He is the married father of four children, including PHS graduates and two currently enrolled students. He is currently a Lieutenant for the Essex County Correctional Police Department, where he has served honorably for 24 years. In 2019, Ralph was re-elected to his third term on the Piscataway Board of Education, where he has been a leader on many issues, including creating a safe and welcoming environment for our students, ensuring transparency and openness in Board actions, smaller class sizes, equity in District hiring practices, innovative academic programs, and responsibility with taxpayer dollars. He has served in a variety of volunteer capacities with school and civic organizations and is the CEO and Founder of the “Take Me Away Foundation,” a children’s charity program. A “Dynamic Dads” Parent Group Facilitator, Ralph was also a popular Piscataway Pop-Warner volunteer Football Coach. Ralph holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from West Virginia University, and a Master of Education in Administration and Supervision from Saint Peter’s College. Ralph received 3,364 votes in the 2020 Democratic Primary.
Laura J. Leibowitz: Laura has been a homeowner in Piscataway for over 15 years, and is the longest serving public school teacher at Piscataway High School. As a teacher of and advocate for children with special needs, she values and practices open communication and transparency. Laura is an active volunteer in the community, previously serving on the boards of NJ District of Kiwanis International, AttachAvi Autism and Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple. She is also the assistant director of a summer camp for children with special needs, Camp Lee Mar. Married to Seth Leibowitz, and the proud mom of Emma, Taylin and Jonah, Laura received the highest number of votes in her 2019 Democratic Committee election. She, like Ms. Tillman, was one of the plaintiffs in the groundbreaking lawsuit that ended gender limitations on party Committee seats in Middlesex County. Laura received 3,629 votes in the 2020 Democratic Primary.
Kamuela “Nikki” Tillman: Kamuela “Nikki” Tillman is a long-time Township resident, a self-described “transplant from the East Orange/Newark area.” A single mother to Kiki, Kaa’lah and Kendall, Kamuela works as a Special Education English teacher. Kamuela’s involvement with grassroots policy and advocacy has empowered her to take back her voice in the democratic process and to encourage accountability and political transparency among elected officials. Kamuela, one of the plaintiffs in the historic lawsuit that ended gender ID rules for County Committee, was elected in a landslide to represent her Heights area neighborhood in 2019. The election of Donald Trump and her feeling "sick and tired of being sick and tired" with the lack of regard for the voices and concerns of constituents, motivated Kamuela to take action and join with like-minded residents to become actively, passionately, and politically involved. Since then, she has moved to a new area of our community and has consistently heard concerns from tenants in our community. As Council member, she promises to be the voice of her constituents, spark change, and increase dialogue so that everyone is heard. In the 2020 Primary, Kamuela received 3,461 votes.
Each of these three individuals represents the best of Piscataway, and any one of them would be a tremendous addition to the Council. They all have demonstrated leadership, service and commitment to our community. They will also bring a fresh perspective and diversity of opinion to the Council at a time when residents in our community have an array of issues on their minds. We respectfully request that you choose one of them to fill the open seat on the Council.
Very truly yours,
Dr. Tom Connors
William S. Irwin
cc: Piscataway Township Council