JERSEY CITY - A day after a slate of Hudson County Democratic Organization-backed school board candidates lost to a rival ticket supported by City Councilman Steven Fulop, HCDO supporters in the city are wondering if the Democratic machine needs to be overhauled and rebuilt before the 2013 mayoral race.
School Board candidates Marilyn Roman, Vidya Gangadin, and Sangeeta Ranade, who ran together on a slate, defeated another ticket that included Gerald Lyons, Amanda Khan, and Frank Lorenzo in Tuesday's Board of Education election. The results stunned many supporters of the Lyons-Khan-Lorenzo slate, which had received the backing of the Jersey City Education Association, Hudson County Freeholder Eliu Rivera, state Assemblyman Charles Mainor, state Assemblyman Sean Connors, and Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy.
Given the city's large Latino population, supporters had expected Lorenzo to sail to victory, in addition to Khan, who ran for the Board of Education in 2011. Sources said Wednesday they expected Roman, who ran on the Fulop-backed ticket, to do well and conceded she had the potential to garner more votes than Lyons, although Lyons was considered to be a strong contender.
However, despite having the backing of the teachers' union and much of the HCDO's elected leadership in Jersey City, Fulop's candidates came out on top in each of the city's six wards.
Fulop's critics are now wondering whether the HCDO has the grassroots strength to defeat the 2013 mayoral candidate. Fulop and Healy have each announced their candidacies for mayor.
"Fulop keeps taking about the Democratic machine," said one Lorenzo-Khan-Lyons supporter Wednesday. "I want to know what machine he's talking about. The only machine I saw yesterday was his."
Despite numerous reported polling problems downtown - Fulop's council district and political stronghold - the HCDO appeared to be out-organized.
Supporters of the Lorenzo-Khan-Lyons ticket reported such logistical problems on Election Day as botched rides to the polls and a lack of communication between the JCEA and teachers regarding the union-backed ticket. Supporters believe these problems led to the defeat of the Lorenzo-Khan-Lyons slate.
"If it goes on like the way it has been, Fulop is the next mayor," said one Healy ally Wednesday.
This is the second election in a row in which the party-supported candidates lost. In November 2011, HCDO-backed City Council incumbents Kalimah Ahmad and Ray Velazquez lost their at-large seats to Viola Richardson and Rolando Lavarro. Indeed, Ahmad and Velazquez came in fourth and fifth, respectively, behind Richardson, Lavarro, and Suzanne Mack. - E. Assata Wright