On May 14, three-quarters of those who voted in Weehawken expressed satisfaction with more than a decade of great work by Mayor Turner and the four other incumbent council members. Turner's charms and political and administrative skills are easy to see.
But there's another side to the story as well: one-quarter of Weehawken voters gave Turner's team a vote of no confidence. They've either seen his ugly side: the bullying, the tirades, the vindictiveness. Or they share WIN's vision of a Weehawken that has yet to live up to its full potential as a jewel on the Hudson, a waterfront town that's on the brink of squandering its biggest opportunity in history.
It was a beautiful, sunny day. But it also rained. Nearly 60 percent of registered voters came out to the polls. But 70 percent of Weehawken's adult population didn't even bother. The incumbents were re-elected by fewer than half of all registered voters, and less than a quarter of the voting-age public. We can only guess what's on the minds of the silent majority.
We ran a terrific campaign. After just two months of hard work, every WIN candidate picked up about one in four votes, with a slate of virtual unknowns, no money, and no outside political connections. This was an amazing feat, considering that the incumbents had more than a decade of name-recognition, a huge war chest, and the entire Democratic machine of the state of New Jersey behind them.
We set the agenda: bringing back honest, open government; fighting back over-development and getting back to business on Park Avenue. They refused to debate in public. They spread flyers that made malicious personal attacks and false claims about our positions. We can only hope that most voters disregarded their ridiculous charges that we aimed to throw renters and senior citizens onto the streets, to cut police and recreation, and to destroy our schools.
We voiced our democratic rights from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. - our most dearly held American value. But we also witnessed the kinds of dirty tricks that have become the sordid hallmark of Hudson County politics. We saw money being exchanged in front of the polls, campaigning within 100 feet and utter chaos in several polling stations. The County Board of Elections was called in.
Even in victory, Mayor Turner continued his attacks, saying "these people knocked the town for two months," and threatening to teach WIN supporters "how things operate in the town." Of course we think that we already know exactly how things operate. That's why we put our lives on hold and ran for public office, and that's why a quarter of the voters said it is time for a change.
If the Mayor truly wants to be inclusive, he'll appoint some of the talented and dedicated Weehawken residents who gave so much to the WIN campaign to positions in Weehawken government. But we're certainly not holding our breath. In four years, we can all look back to see whether our elected officials are able to bring all of the stakeholders together to work for the betterment of everyone in town, or whether Weehawken becomes even more divided.
In the meantime, WIN will continue to work hard on the issues we think are most important for the future of our town, and we'll continue to reach out to all of our neighbors. Our heartfelt thanks go to all those who supported us and contributed so much.
We love you Weehawken! Ari Laszlo and Ben Goldman
WIN's 2002 At-Large Candidates