Mayor who delivered birthday gifts to kids during coronavirus slammed by opponent

Posted Apr 22, 2020

A woman who is challenging Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren in the May 12 election says he put residents at risk for the coronavirus by delivering birthday gifts door to door to children with a police and fire caravan.

Warren is seen in a video posted to the city’s YouTube account with a mask pulled below his nose and mouth as approaches a child, gives them a gift and then belts out happy birthday.

The incumbent, Warren, says the concerns from his opponent, Shawn Hunter, are “disgusting" and attempt to earn “political points."

“No one has done more than I have to protect Orange during this pandemic,” Warren said in a statement to NJ Advance Media. “All the actions I have taken are consistent with keeping our community safe. My actions are coordinated with our emergency services personnel, faith-based institutions, and non-profits."

Hunter, who said she formerly worked in Orange’s finance department, noted the mayor’s use of police and fire personnel to deliver gifts to children used city resources during an election season.

“It’s not fair, it’s really not fair. He has no right going in there," Hunter said. "If your family can’t come see you, why is the mayor allowed to come in with six people around?”

Gov. Phil Murphy, who has instructed residents to go outside only if necessary and stay six-feet apart when doing so, warned residents to be careful of caravans during the pandemic. Cops in Sparta have said police, fire and ambulance vehicles will not take part in celebratory processions, including ones for birthdays.

The governor has noted that even somber processions should be done cautiously or in moderation. The mayor of Orange is seen at one point during the 17-minute video giving condolences to one family with his mask dangling from his face.

Hunter, meanwhile, added that people living in senior citizens buildings told her volunteers from Warren’s camp were sliding campaign literature inside Easter cards under their doors. In one instance, Hunter said, a senior opened their door and came in contact with the volunteer.

“They have no reason to be in there,” said Hunter, noting that seniors are one of the most at-risk if they contract COVID-19. “They’re in there for political reasons.”

Warren, who was first elected in 2012, confirmed that he has been sending Easter cards to seniors and doing wellness check-ins for years, but questioned why it has become an issue now.

“Now it’s an issue?” he quipped. “I would ask Hunter and other Orange politicians sitting on the sidelines to stop mudslinging and start making a difference in the lives of Orange residents for a change. In this climate, no one has time for petty politics.”

Rayfield Morton, Donna Williams, Christopher Jackson and Michael Jean Baptiste are also running for mayor. Three seats for council at-large will also be chosen by voters.

All May 12 elections in Essex County will be conducted through vote-by-mail. Residents will not be able to vote at polling stations on that day.

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