The victory came at the expense of the Mayor David Roberts' candidate (and Interim Councilman) Vincent Addeo, and former 10-year 3rd Ward Councilwoman Roseanne Andreula. Both Addeo and Andreula had lost to Anthony Russo in May's general election, with Andreula, who was then supported by Roberts, losing by approximately 100 votes in a runoff.
"This is the third time that those people [Roberts and his Hoboken United organization] have come into the 3rd Ward, and this is the third time that they have left defeated," said the charismatic young Russo as he addressed his supporters the Russo Civic Association on Adams Street. Michael Russo is a born-and-raised Hoboken resident and a product of the public school system. As a licensed physical therapist, he now owns and operates a private practice in Hoboken while pursuing a clinical doctorate degree.
"From this point on," he said, "Mayor David Roberts will not harass city workers or residents ever again." (The city had threatened layoffs earlier this year because of budget problems.) Russo added, "This proves people cannot come in and try to change the minds of the people of the 3rd Ward."
The 3rd Ward post became vacant when Anthony Russo resigned because of the reoccurrence of his cancer. More recently, Russo has also been indicted on charges of taking money during his two terms in the 1990s in exchange for action on municipal contracts. He has pleaded not guilty on all charges and is awaiting trial.
Michael Russo had said throughout the election that he did not believe that his father's indictment would have an impact on the election.
When the final votes were tallied, Russo garnered 511, Addeo 463 and Andreula 285. Those totals do not include 130 absentee ballots. After allegations of voting irregularities by the Addeo camp, those ballots have been impounded by a Superior Court judge.
Even though Russo didn't get 50 percent of the vote, there is no runoff in a special election.
During his emotional victory speech, Russo thanked his father, who for more than a decade was the one of the most prominent players in the political landscape. Anthony Russo served as mayor from 1993 until 2001. He was seen as a powerful force who got things done, but also became enraged at criticism.
"My father is the best mayor this city has ever had," said the younger Russo as he stood on a countertop. "I can not thank him enough for everything that he has given me."
Moments later, he pulled his father and his mother, Michele Russo, up on the counter and embraced both with hugs. "My son, with only the help of friends and family, handed Roberts and his entire Hoboken United organization a devastating loss," said Anthony Russo, who was grinning from ear to ear. "You can't even image how proud I am of my son."
He added that he believes Tuesday night's election is the "first step in the downfall" of Hoboken United.
First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, who is Anthony Russo's cousin and Michael's godmother, said that looks forward to sitting on the council with Russo. "He's been such a great kid, and he is going to make even a better councilman," she said.
Addeo, 43, a labor organizer, was picked by Roberts to serve as the interim councilman until Tuesday's election. He said he plans to stay active in Hoboken politics.
"Of course I'm disappointed," said a reflective Addeo at his campaign headquarters at around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, "but even more, I'm proud of the campaign that we ran and believe we conducted ourselves with dignity and respect."
Mayor David Roberts said it was an honor to back Addeo as a candidate. "I have met few people who have as much honor and integrity as Vinny Addeo," said Roberts. "He would have been an excellent public official."
Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons, who represents the neighborhood on the county level, said that despite the loss, Addeo will not be disappearing from the local political scene. "Vinny Addeo is a [political] newcomer that has a bright future," said Fitzgibbons. "He ran a quality campaign and showed that he will be a player for a long time to come."
Little time to celebrate
Assuming the election is certified, the nine-member council is back to a 5-4 majority of Roberts supporters. Castellano and council members Tony Soares and Carol Marsh supported Russo in the special election.
"I have a lot of hope that Michael [Russo] will do a really good job," said Soares. "I'm absolutely thrilled with the results and look forward to working with him."
At this time, the fissure between the administration and its critics is wide and deep and should set up for many heated and argumentative City Council meetings. During his campaigning, Russo, like his father, was a vocal critic of Mayor David Roberts' administration, especially when it comes to fiscal policy and spending. He has been particularly critical of the mayor-supported plan to restructure the city's debt. The mayor's plan, which has been approved by the council, refinances the debt at a higher interest rate for a longer term. Russo said the short-term savings do not justify the extra costs that will come later.