270 votes. That’s all Richard Wyatt needed to win his 2021 bid for Mayor of Plainfield in the Democratic Primary, despite being outspent by a massive margin – $355,000 versus around $35,000. Incumbent Adrian Mapp literally held a 10 to 1 money advantage, with donations from a who’s who of vendors, consultants, politicians, city employees, and their families. Even in defeat, Wyatt won. The election solidified the 35 year old as an upcoming force in Plainfield politics.
In last year’s election, when you break it down to each of Plainfield’s four wards, Richard Wyatt did his best in the fourth, receiving 57% of the votes cast for the 3 leading candidates in the race. Wyatt fared similarly in both the first and third, receiving 44% of the vote in each. Mayor Mapp would take around half of the votes in those wards. Then came the second ward. While Mapp only received 46% of the votes between the three main candidates – making it his second worst ward – Wyatt and second ward Councilman Sean McKenna split the votes that did not go to the mayor. They each received around 27%.
After Richard Wyatt announced his candidacy for the second and third ward at-large seat earlier this year, it only made sense for McKenna and Wyatt to work together, as the second ward would be an even larger factor than it was in the mayoral race. They did. McKenna provided a key endorsement and support for Wyatt, helping lead him to victory on Tuesday, June 7.
After winning 52.6% of the votes in the third ward and 52.6% of the second ward, Richard Wyatt is the Democratic nominee for second and third ward Councilperson at-large. Provisional ballots have not yet been counted in these unofficial results, but they leaned heavily in Wyatt’s favor in the last election, and would be unable to make up Mills-Ransome’s 109 vote deficit. Votes dropped off on election day can’t make up that gap.
The Democratic nominee is a shoo-in for the general election, as it’s been at least 30 years since a Republican or Independent has taken any of Plainfield’s seven City Council seats. No one since has even come close.
The fate of Wyatt’s running mate, first ward City Council candidate Regina Lynn-Lowery, is a little less clear. She trails Robert Graham by 24 votes, with provisional ballots, and those dropped off the day of the election, yet to be counted.
Regardless, the balance of power on the City Council may have gotten a little more interesting, as Wyatt, McKenna, and Terri Briggs-Jones – who ran with Wyatt in 2021 – are now on the governing body. They could form a 3-person block who, while not a majority, can at least question and push back against the administration when needed. With Lynn-Lowery, they’d have a majority.
But the fight to represent the interests of Plainfield residents has objectives to meet before the next mayoral election in 2025. In 2023, both the second ward (Sean McKenna) and first-and-fourth (Barry Goode) City Council seats are available.
Next spring will also host the Democratic City Committee election. Whoever controls the City Committee can determine which candidates gain the advantage of the Democratic Party line, which is a big deal due to Union County’s terrible ballot design. You can read more about the ballot here.