JERSEY CITY – Esther Wintner, who finished third in last week’s municipal election for the Ward B Jersey City City Council seat, has petitioned Hudson County Superior Court to include her in the in the upcoming June 11 runoff. Wintner’s move comes after second place finisher Gerald Meyers successfully petitioned the court on Monday to be excluded from the runoff, leaving Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal the only candidate on the ballot for Ward B.
Following the May 14 municipal election, only two candidates – Mayor-elect Steven Fulop and Ward E City Councilwoman-elect Candice Osborne – surpassed the required vote threshold of 50 percent plus one to claim victory on the first ballot. Runoff elections are required for all three City Council at-large seats and in wards A, B, C, D, and F.
By law, if no ward candidate gets 50 percent of the vote plus one, then the two candidates who received the most number of votes must compete in a runoff election. For at-large seats, if no one gets 50 percent plus one, then the top six vote getters compete in a runoff.
After the disappointing results for candidates allied with outgoing Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, however, three Healy-allied candidates successfully petitioned the court on Monday to be excluded from the June 11 runoff.
On Monday afternoon, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso granted requests by Ward B candidate Gerald Meyers and at-large candidates Peter Brennan and Omar Perez to formally drop out of the runoff.
Thus, these three candidates were not included in Monday’s drawing for ballot positions.
As it stands now, Ramchal is the only candidate for Ward B, and only four candidates are on the ballot for the at-large City Council seats: Viola Richardson, Joyce Watterman, Rolando Lavarro Jr., and Daniel Rivera.
Shortly before the court closed for the day on May 20, Wintner petitioned the court, asking that she be allowed to compete in lieu of Meyers. As of late Tuesday, no decision had been made on Wintner’s request.
City Clerk Robert Byrne, who oversees municipal elections, believes Wintner could have an uphill battle on her hands.
“The law is clear about what you do if no one gets that 50 percent plus one,” said Byrne. “There is no provision in the law that says someone in third place gets to move up if the person in second place drops out…We’ll have to see what the judge says.”
If a judge grants Wintner’s request it could encourage other candidates – specifically Sean Connelly and Ramon “Ray” Regalado, who finished behind Brennan and Perez – to make the same request.
Wintner would need the support of Meyers and his bloc of voters to surpass Ramchal in the runoff. In the race for the Ward B City Council seat, Ramchal received 1,721 votes on the first ballot; Meyers received 1,546 votes; Wintner received 736 votes. A fourth candidate, Chris Gadsden, received 545 votes. – E. Assata Wright