With 26 candidates running for only six City Council seats, it was inevitable that there were going to be runoffs in several of the city's six wards. When no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, runoffs result.
Tuesday night's election went a long way to make a muddled City Council race much clearer. Runoffs in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th ward will take place June 10.
With hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to work with, the support of the county political machine and the backing of the current administration, Mayor David Roberts' Hoboken United ticket came out in the best position. The mayor's biggest victories came in the city's 4th and 5th wards where Campos and Cricco were the election's only first ballot winners.
"We had challenges coming from every direction in this election," said Roberts, "but our candidates showed good form and I'm very pleased with our position. Our candidates have proven that we're committed to the agenda that this administration started 20 months ago. We're committed to finishing the Master Plan, to improving our public schools, to creating open space, to revitalizing our ferry terminal, and rehabilitating our public library."
But there were also many attacks in literature on candidates who were against the Roberts team (see story, p. 3), especially in the 4th Ward.
In a 4th Ward race defined by personal attacks, aggressive and often negative campaigning, Campos, of Hoboken United, won convincingly with almost 54 percent of the vote.
Campos defeated Hoboken First's Anthony Mussara (who got 25 percent) and current At-Large Councilman Tony Soares (18 percent). Soares will still keep his at-large seat representing the city, and must run for it again in 2005.
Going into the election season, the match-up between Campos and Soares was billed by many insiders as possibly the marquee match-up of the election, and at the very least, the most entertaining confrontation. Soares was the candidate on the Hoboken Alliance for Accountable Government slate, a high-profile ticket whose leaders are former Roberts supporters who say they have become disenfranchised with the current administration. It was not uncommon in the past couple months for Campos and Soares to engage in unbridled criticism of each other at City Council meetings.
Campos' margin of victory is particularly stunning, and could a mean an uphill battle for Soares when it comes to his future political aspirations, especially considering that Soares has been mentioned in political circles as a potential candidate for mayor in 2005.
However, this election was a ward race, where individual parts of town chose their representative. It was not a citywide election, where the numbers might be different.
One thing that doesn't help Soares' case was that Mussara of the upstart Hoboken First organization edged out Soares for a second place finish in the ward. Some of the issues that Hoboken First was running on were balancing the budget without relying on non-recurring "one-shot" revenues, and undertaking a smart growth development plan for the western end of the city.
"I believe that the people voted for substance over sound bytes," said
Campos shortly after the results were announced. "In this election, Tony was finally exposed for what he is - someone who constantly complains but never comes up with any solutions."
Campos added that he looks forward to pursuing a full agenda over the next four years.
"We're now going to be able to work hard to create more open space, provide more affordable housing and continue to work with commissioners of the Hoboken Housing Authority to improve the quality of life of those residents," he said.
Soares said that losing this election was anything but a failure for the Hoboken Alliance.
"I don't care what anyone says; this election was a victory for us," he said. "For an organization that is only two months old to get into three runoffs against a political machine that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars is just remarkable."
Soares also refused to congratulate Campos because he believes that the mayor and Campos ran a particularly "dirty" campaign.
In the 5th Ward
In the 5th Ward, where two-term Councilman Michael Cricco has enjoyed a reputation for volunteerism and for sometimes being independent of whichever mayor is in charge, Cricco just barely avoided a runoff by garnering 50.8 percent of the 1,126 votes.
Hoboken Alliance's Ines Garcia-Keim had a solid showing with 38 percent of the vote, and independent Jane Richards-Mercado finished with 11 percent.
Shortly after hugging members of his family, friends and supporters, Cricco said he is honored that he will be able to serve as the 5th Ward councilman for four more years.
"We went out into the neighborhood, worked really hard and campaigned diligently," said Cricco.
While Roberts' camp celebrated the victory of incumbents Cricco and Campos, the conversation of many quickly turned to runoffs. Hoboken United candidates will be participating in three out of the four runoffs. In the 1st Ward, incumbent Theresa Castellano, who ran as an independent, will face Hoboken Alliance candidate Ron Rosenberg. They beat out Roberts' candidate, Shelley Miller, an activist who had never run for council before.
"We still have several weeks of hard campaigning ahead of us," said Roberts at the Hoboken United campaign headquarters Tuesday night, "but one thing is clear. This organization will maintain the control of [Hoboken's] City Council. I am completely optimistic that in the next three weeks, we will continue to get our message out, and we look forward to the next stage of this election."
The upcoming clashes
The 1st ward proved to be one of the wilder races, with six different candidates running. Incumbent Theresa Castellano led the pack with 38 percent of the vote. Ron Rosenberg of Hoboken Alliance and independent Dominic Lisa were in nearly a dead heat, with both receiving around 24 percent of the vote. Rosenberg squeaked his way into the runoff by a mere five votes. Lisa has challenged those votes to see if he can get into the runoff.
Rounding out the 1st Ward results were Hoboken United's Shelley Miller (16 percent), independent Edward Mecka (11 percent), and Daniel Tumpson (2 percent).
Two-term Councilwoman Castellano said that she is confident about her prospects.
"I feel that with six candidates, there was no doubt in my mind that there was going to be a runoff," she said. "But I think we did a hell of a job preparing for this election, and I know we're going to do a hell of a job in getting ready for June 10. My workers and supporters have been and will continue to be phenomenal."
Ron Rosenberg, who owns a company that distributes memory for computers and digital cameras and is the current president of Hoboken Synagogue, said that while he realizes he still might be the underdog, he looks forward to the runoff bid.
"For a brand new group to come and get into three runoffs is exceptionally good news," he said Wednesday. "I'm going forward with the same vigor that I went into the first round with."
The pivotal 2nd
The real linchpin of this entire election for Roberts could be the 2nd Ward. There will be a runoff between two-term councilman and retired school principal Richard Del Boccio (40 percent), who is running on the mayor's ticket, and Hoboken Alliance candidate Elizabeth Mason (29 percent). Mason beat out Hoboken First candidate John Corea (26 percent) by only 43 votes to get into the runoff. Rounding out the 2nd Ward election was Lucille Haack (4 percent) and Alice Misiewicz (2 percent) of the Hoboken Citizens' Organization.
While Del Boccio received a comfortable 11 percent cushion in the first ballot, a rumored endorsement of Mason by Corea, who received 330 votes, would quickly even up this race. Corea said Thursday that he has not fully decided whom he will endorse in the runoff, but did say that he would make an announcement shortly. After shouting about high taxes, high campaign contributions and a lack of recreational facilities for kids on the part of the Roberts team, it may seem harder for Corea to turn around and endorse Del Boccio.
"I'm definitely going to be making a major endorsement of one of the candidates in the next couple of days," Corea said.
Corea added that even though he isn't in the runoff, he will not be disappearing from the public eye.
"This has been a wonderful experience, and I'm not going to stop working," he said. "You're going to hear from me again in two years." He hinted that he will be making another run in the 2005 at-large council election.
DelBoccio is not a rookie to runoffs. For the popular two-term councilman, this is his third runoff.
"This is not a new thing, and I know what to expect," he said. "I'll be out knocking on doors and working hard, and I have full confidence that we will be successful."
Mason said that despite trailing in the first ballot, she likes her chances.
"I think we have a great shot," she said. She added that the results of the first ballot proved that in a municipal election every vote truly counts.
So a key in the 2nd Ward runoff will be voter turnout. The first ballot saw unusually low voter turnout, which in Hoboken traditionally means that the so-called "newcomers" to the city didn't turn out the polls in large numbers. If the Hoboken Alliance could energize that often apathetic group, that could also have an effect on the runoff.
In fact, despite feverous activity and aggressive campaigning and a field of 26 candidates from four different tickets, voter apathy in Tuesday's election reached levels it hasn't seen in over a decade. According to the city clerk's office, there were approximately 7,600 Hoboken residents who voted in Tuesday's election.
The council elections in 1991, 1995, and 1999 each attracted well over 8,000 voters, according to the clerk's office.
Former Mayor Anthony Russo, in the 3rd Ward, had the next highest vote total of any candidate in the election. He faces a runoff with former ally Roseanne Andreula (see story inside), who is backed by Roberts.
Russo won 44 percent of the vote compared to his runoff competition, Roseanne Andreula, who only received 24 percent of the vote. Coming in third place with a respectable showing was Vincent Addeo of Hoboken First, with 20 percent, and Hoboken Alliance candidate Elizabeth Markevitch, who received 13 percent.
What makes this runoff interesting is that the top three votegetters,
Russo, Andreula, and Addeo all live in the same building complex, Church Towers, so it will be interesting how the remaining two split Addeo's votes especially since they are all neighbors.
Andreula said Wednesday night that she looks forward to the overcoming the challenge. "I'm still confident about what the final result is going to be," said Andreula. "It's just going to take a little longer than we first thought."
In the 6th
It what was a minor surprise, Hoboken Alliance candidate Daniel deCavaignac, by the slimmest of margins, made it into a runoff with one-term incumbent A. Nino Giacchi in the 6th Ward. Many people thought that Giacchi, who is running in Roberts' home ward, had a good chance of being a first ballot winner. But Giacchi was only able to pull 49 percent of the vote. DeCavaignac had 32 percent, followed by independent Carole Bartolucci (14 percent) and Cheryl Fallick (6 percent).
"I can't be disappointed, because even though there is going to be a runoff, I still performed very well," said Giacchi. "We're just going to have to keep this pace up for a couple more weeks to guarantee that we will be successful in the runoff."
DeCavaignac said that he is confident, but that Hoboken Alliance is presented with many challenges in the coming weeks.
"Our chances are excellent in the 6th Ward," he said. "The challenge is to convince people that change is entirely possible and is in their best interest. To prove to them that special interests are not in their best interests and that a vote for the mayor's candidate [Giacchi] in this ward is a vote for the special interests."
Makeup of the council
What is at stake is the makeup of the City Council. Right now, members Tony Soares and Carol Marsh are critical of the mayor, and Theresa Castellano is sometimes critical. If anti-Roberts forces can claim two more seats, the mayor may have more checks and balances to contend with.
If the votes in the runoff mirror patterns in last week's election, Russo stands a good chance of claiming a 3rd Ward seat. Thus, one other ward election could determine how much control the mayor has over the City Council, or whether meetings and votes could be much more contentious.
Castellano (I)* 373
Lisa (HF) 226
Mecka (I) 123
Miller (HU) 175
Rosenberg (HA) 231
Tumpson (HC) 19
Corea (HF) 330
DelBoccio (HU)* 513
Haack (I) 47
Mason (HA) 373
Misiewicz (HC) 22
Addeo (HF) 313
Andreula (HU)* 379
Markevitch (HA) 206
Russo (I) 691
Campos (HU)* 814
Demeo (I) 52
Mussara (HF) 379
Soares (HA) 269
Cricco (HU)* 573
Garcia Keim (HA) 426
Richards-Mercado (I) 127
Bartolucci (I) 126
deCavaignac (HA) 291
Fallick (HC) 51
Giacchi (HU)* 449
* -- Incumbent
(HA) Hoboken Alliance for Accountable Government
(HC) Hoboken Citizens Organization
(HF) Hoboken First
(HU) Hoboken United