Would incumbent Mayor Joseph Doria beat off challengers Patrick Conaghan, Vincent Militello and Leonard Kantor in a first round win? Or will Doria be forced into a runoff election because he failed to get the 50 percent-plus-one vote necessary to win outright? And if Doria does get into a runoff, whom will he be facing in June?
Likewise, will the perceived front-runner in the seven-candidate at-large council race, incumbent Councilman Anthony Chiappone, get the necessary votes to win? And if he does, who will the second highest vote getter be?
Under state election law, if an at-large candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, he is elected and carries in the next highest vote getter.
This happened eight years ago when Mary Jane Desmond won and carried in Nick Capodice with her.
Although the results came in after press time for the Bayonne Community News, readers can turn to the newspaper's Web site: http://www.hudsonreporter.com or www.bayonnecommunitynews.com for election results.
The mayor's race
As the election neared its conclusion, Doria was perceived as the front-runner, edging in on the necessary 50 percent-plus-one vote necessary to avoid a runoff.
But if Doria failed, whom would he face?
Although word on the street claimed that Conaghan had the money and workers to get out his vote, some felt that Militello would benefit from the political firefighters, Conaghan and Doria, as the undecided looked for an alternative candidate, pushing him into the runoff slot.
Conaghan has put on a significant rush to beat Doria, spending a considerable amount of money and sending out a lot of mailings. But he has also been the target of pointed Doria campaign literature against the proposed container port for the Military Ocean Terminal that could turn off voters to him.
While Militello has spent less and managed fewer mailings, he also had no visible negative against him, giving him a possible edge among undecided voters.
"People come up to Mayor Doria to assure him every day," said one Doria campaign worker. "Most of the people around him think he's going to take it on the first round and not have a runoff."
Doria's campaign was shifting gears
State Senator Bernard Kenny of Hoboken once said that all campaigns are really two campaigns, everything done up until election day, and then election day itself.
Kenny pointed out that the focus on election day is to get out your vote, and that's what Doria team planned to do on election day.
"We have a significant get-out-the-Doria vote planned," said one campaign worker. "On election day, we get out our lists of people we identify as positive for Doria and we try to make sure they get to the polls."
This involves calling people to remind them, even getting car pools to get them to the polls if necessary.
The Doria headquarters, like those of other candidates, become hives of activity as people rush in and out, check maps, and get people to the polls. Workers are also outside each of the polling places handing out palm cards.
Doria's support comes from a wide demographic with strong support from senior citizens who credit him not only for his work as mayor but also the senior citizen relief legislation he has sponsored or voted for as a state assemblyman or senator.
Chiappone not overly confident
"I always hope to win on the first round, but plan for a runoff," said incumbent at-large candidate Chiappone.
Many believe that Chiappone can win on the first round, and if so, would carry the next highest voting candidate into office with him.
This puts pressure on other candidates such as incumbent Council members Maria Karczewski and Vincent Lo Re who are running on the Doria ticket, and Denis Wilbeck and Agnes Gillespie running on the Militello ticket. Does this become every person for his or herself thus telling people to vote only for one candidate in order to nudge out their running mate?
Chiappone, if he is indeed leading the pack, is also aided in avoiding a runoff by a flaw in the new electronic voting machines.
The Sequoia AVC Advantage machines, which Hudson County purchased two years ago as a result of the ballot problems in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, have no counter to determine how many people actually voted, only the total number of votes cast.
This could play a pivotal role in determining whether or not a runoff takes place, especially if some people choose to vote only for one at-large candidate instead of two.
If, for example, 10,000 people voted, with two seats open, the total vote count should be 20,000. So that in order for a candidate to win on the first round, he or she would need to obtain 5,001 votes. But since the machines count only votes cast - not voters - the city clerk is required to use vote total to determine the winner. So that if some of the 10,000 chose only to vote for one candidate and the total number of votes comes out at 18,000 - then the winner would need only 4,501 votes to win on the first round.
"Technically, we could see someone elected at-large without getting the majority," said City Clerk Robert Sloan. "While the county has known about this for two years and complained to the software providers, the software providers haven't come up with a fix yet. This was a potential problem last year in Jersey City. It can be a problem in Bayonne and Union City this year. It only has an impact on the at-large seats."
Runoffs possible in two of three wards
The potential for a runoff also affects two of the three wards.
Since the 1st Ward race had only two candidates, whomever takes the most votes there is the winner. But the 2nd and 3rd wards have three candidates running in each.
Sloan said if no one takes the 50 percent-plus-one vote in either or both of those races, then a ballot drawing is conducted for position on the ballot and an election will take place a week after the primary.
Actually, state law requires the runoff to take place four weeks after the municipal election, but since six out of every seven elections the primary is held on the fourth Tuesday the runoff is pushed to a week afterward.
"But there have been years where we've had the runoff before the primary," Sloan recalled. "It depends on how many Tuesdays we have in May."