JERSEY CITY - Jersey City 2013 mayoral candidate and current Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop today announced three candidates on his slate. The slate will include current Ward B Councilman David Donnelly, current At-large Councilman Rolando Lavarro Jr., and local activist Candice Osborn for Ward E.
"I am excited to have these first three terrific partners who are willing to be part of the team," Fulop said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
"My goal is that the eventual complete ticket will reflect the true diversity of the city giving more opportunities to women and minorities.
This is an important first step while we continue to interview candidates who are interested in running for the remaining six council seats."
Fulop, who is running against incumbent Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, must still select candidates for Wards A, C, D, F, and the for the city's two other at-large seats.
The 2012 Jersey City municipal election will be held in May.
Fulop's announcement may raise a few eyebrows.
Lavarro and Fulop
Since winning his current at-large seat on the council last November, Lavarro has been moving closer to Fulop. He worked as a ward captain for three Board of Education candidates who were backed by Fulop and last week Lavarro formally endorsed Donald Payne Jr. for the 10th District U.S. Congressional seat long held by Payne's father, Donald Payne Sr. The younger Payne is also Fulop's pick for the 10th District seat.
Lavarro and Fulop have also jointly introduced a limited living wage ordinance that would affect certain workers employed by city contractors and developers that receive city abatements.
The Lavarro-Fulop partnership, and Lavarro's inclusion on the Fulop slate, could separate the at-large councilman from the ally who helped him get elected.
Lavarro first ran for the Ward A City Council seat in 2009 against Michael Sottolano and won enough votes to force a runoff. He lost the runoff race to Sottolano. But last year Lavarro joined forces with longtime City Councilwoman Viola Richardson in the 2011 special election to fill two open at-large seats on the council. Richardson and Lavarro were, respectively, the top two vote getters in that race and Lavarro became the first Asian American to be elected to the Jersey City Council.
Lavarro, however, is the only at-large candidate Fulop has announced thus far.
When asked what she thought of Lavarro's decision to join the Fulop campaign and whether his partnership with Fulop would affect her political plans in 2013, Richardson said, "I have not made a determination yet as if I'm going to run or what I'm going to run for. I haven't decided yet."
Before winning her current at-large seat on the council, Richardson was the Ward F council representative for nearly 10 years. She could conceivably run for a full at-large term or for her old Ward F seat. Richardson has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor - a decision that could draw votes away from Fulop.
Dan Levin's future undecided
The exclusion of Ward E activist and Fulop ally Daniel Levin from the ticket is another surprise.
The founder of Civic JC and One Jersey City, Levin has twice run for office.
In 2009 he ran for mayor and he also ran in the November 2011 special election to fill two at-large council seats.
Well-liked and well-known throughout Ward E, Levin is cut from similar cloth as Fulop and the two have worked together to advance some local public policies. For example, the city's pay-to-play law, which Fulop introduced, grew out of work that had been advocated by Civic JC. Next month, Fulop is expected to introduce an ordinance to make Jersey City friendlier to bicyclists. The ordinance is already being supported by Bike JC, an advocacy organization on which Levin is a board member.
Levin said he is undecided whether to run in the 2013 race for Fulop's current Ward E seat.
"I guess my 'official' comment is that I will be deciding whether to run for office (likely Ward E council) over the summer. Since the special council election, when I have been asked about my potential 2013 candidacy, my response is that I first have to get my personal and employment situations settled to be able to make the commitment to run and that I will keep an open mind about working with a slate or team of candidates. Should I decide not to run, there remain numerous ways I can continue to contribute to making Jersey City a better place to live and improve local government without going through grind and expense of a campaign."
Donnelly was appointed to the City Council to fill the seat of Philip Kenny, who resigned after pleading guilty to corruption charges. Donnelly eventually went on to win a 2010 special election to serve out Kenney's term. He has been in poor health over the past 16 months. Although he has regularly attended meetings throughout his illness, he has not been much of a presence on the council during this period. - E. Assata Wright