This came at a September fundraiser in Bayonne and according to those close to the mayor was designed to quell rumors that he would not head the ticket.
“There have been a lot of rumors out there that he is taking a job somewhere else—such as the Port Authority—or won’t be running,” said Bayonne Democratic Chairman Jason O’Donnell. “He announced in order to assure his supporters that he is running in May.”
O’Donell said this is very early for an announcement, but that this was done specifically for those who support Smith.
Usually slates for mayor and council are announced in January or February prior to the May election.
Opposition to Smith is apparently also gearing up early and several people have met in an attempt to build an alternative ticket. Currently, there is one declared candidate against Smith.
In opposition, former Hudson County Sheriff Juan Perez is apparently being courted to run at-large as is a former First Ward candidate Thomas Cotter. Former Third Ward Councilman Gary LaPelusa will likely run for his old seat, although it is possible he might try for an at-large seat as well.
Supporters of the alternative ticket say they have a mayoral candidate picked out, but do not expect to announce his candidacy until later in October.
Mayor Smith told his supporters that he sees the city moving in the right direction and that he would remain mayor until he feels his work is done.
Smith won his seat in a special election in November 2008 to fill the unexpired term of former Mayor Joseph Doria, who had resigned to become Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.
A 25-year veteran of the Bayonne Police Department, Smith ran for his first full term in 2010, carrying in a full ticket of council candidates.
Although there is speculation that some of the existing council members may not seek reelection in the May 2014 election, O’Donnell said it is too early to speculate.
Smith’s endorsement of former Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy earlier this year has fueled well-founded speculation that current Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop would likely offer support to an alternative ticket. Fulop supporters have vowed to unseat O’Donnell as state Assemblyman, but since O’Donnell is currently the Democratic nominee for the seat in the November election, Fulop people will either have to support one of the two Republican candidates or wait until the 2015 Democratic primary to try.
“Two years is a lifetime in politics,” O’Donnell said. “And if I am put out of office, I’ll still find a way to serve the people of Bayonne.”
Smith will be running on a platform that is a mixture of promises kept and on potential changes that will help the city grow.
In 2008, he vowed to reduce the cost of operating government, and to streamline operations. He vowed to reduce the city’s debt and to keep from acquiring new debt. In his first six years in office, his administration successfully restructured government, reducing the number of departments, the total number of employees, through attrition; absorbed the previous Parking Authority operation into the city public safety department, dissolved the Bayonne Redevelopment Authority, and partially privatized the operations of the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority, thereby doing away with the BMUA debt. O’Donnell said this debt was always the city’s regardless of what body had acquired it.
Some of the changes to redevelopment will get the city out of the role of redeveloper—especially in regard to the former Military Ocean Terminal—and allow markets to take up the role.
Recent decisions to build a world-class cruise port terminal at Port Liberty by Royal Caribbean, the settlement of a lawsuit associated with development nearby, and the potential settlement of other suits there, could bring about a resurgence of the local economy at a time when Smith is seeking reelection.
Opposition to Smith is expected to come from a number of dissatisfied groups including those who support the maintenance of rent control and many supporters of Bayonne teachers who associate Smith with a school board that has failed to offer teachers a contract that they can accept.
The school board is appointed by the mayor. But Smith supporters recently pointed to a failed bid to get a referendum on the ballot that would make it an elected board as a weak mayoral campaign issue.
Earlier this year, Anthony Zanowic announced he was seeking the mayoral spot. Although the municipal election is non-partisan, Zanowic and his council running mate Daniel Herrera are seen as libertarians and hold positions, they say, that are similar to U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.