Former Mayor Glenn Cunningham died of a heart attack on May 25, and residents will get to elect a replacement to fill out his term starting this November.
Acting Mayor L. Harvey Smith, who is also the City Council President, has been temporarily filling Cunningham's shoes and wants to continue the job. The other candidates are: Louis Manzo, Jerremiah Healy, Ron Buonocore, Willie Flood, and James Carroll, with new additions last week of Steve Lipski, Isaiah J. Gadsden, Alfred Marc Pine, Dwayne Baskerville, Thomas Short, Hilario Nunez, Jr. and Hosam Mansour.
A political free-for-all will see established politicians and unknown novices competing for votes in this city of over 240,000 on Nov. 2.History
The unusual situation that harkens back in Jersey City history to 1992. In November of that year, a special election was being held for the mayor's office as a result of former mayor Gerald McCann unable to finish his mayoral term after being sentenced to federal prison for fraud and tax evasion.
In a field of 19 candidates, young professional Republican Bret Schundler ended up winning the special election with 18 percent of the vote, filling the remainder of McCann's term.
Now, there could be the possibility of another Schundler-like fluke because of the small plurality that a candidate would need to win the election. (Schundler himself is preparing to run for governor.)
It could also be the battle of the slogans. L. Harvey Smith, a former adversary of Cunningham, wants to be the mayor "For The People." Former Police Chief Ron Buonocore will look forward to "Serving the People." Assemblyman Louis Manzo is working to put "Jersey City First." Alfred Marc Pine could needle the opposition with "Wake Up, Jersey" and Dwayne Baskerville could hound the competition with probably the slogan most apropos for this season, "Yes, Lord!"
But the real battle will be between the most known figures. The field includes three city councilmen, a three-time contender for mayor, a police chief who may or not have lived in Jersey City long enough, and one female candidate.
Also interesting are those on the ballot who have come out of nowhere, which creates a field of frontrunners and underdogs.
L. Harvey Smith "For The People"- Currently the acting mayor of Jersey City, Smith is also the City Council president. He brings 12 years of experience on the council to what his chief-of-staff and political advisor Roger Jones calls a "people's campaign," a grassroots effort to attract voters rather than depending on big name support (e.g. Rep. Robert Menendez, whose support he may not get). While Smith has the support of a Latino bloc organized by such figures as former deputy mayor Anthony Cruz and County Freeholder Ray Velasquez, there has been concern raised about gathering the African-American vote (even though Smith is African-American), since there could be lingering resentment over Smith's feud with Cunningham.
Louis Manzo "Jersey City First" - State Assemblyman for the 31st District (D-NJ) since last year who has run three previous times for mayor and lost thrice, Manzo was the earliest campaigner starting in June, which made him the frontrunner in the mayoral race. There was criticism from the beginning of his campaign for his soliciting support during the mourning period for Cunningham. And much has been made of Manzo employing the services of former mayor Gerald McCann, who is viewed by many longtime politicians in the city as having the "best political mind" in the campaign but is considered one of the dirtiest political fighters. Manzo, however, may have an advantage because of his legislative work while in the State Assembly and name recognition. He held his fundraiser on Thursday at Casino-In-The-Park that saw an estimated 1,200 people, including many senior citizens, bused in for the effort.
Jerremiah Healy "Fighting Corruption" - City councilman-at-large since 2001, Healy has also been a Jersey City Municipal Court Judge and a practicing lawyer, but stepped down from his work to devote his time to campaigning. Healy has been regarded as one of the more respected and honest politicians in city government, who, even with his affiliations to the Hudson County Democratic Organization and recent endorsement by County Executive Tom DeGise, is seen as an independent due to his votes on the City Council opposing abatements for developers. But Healy has had to fight against the constant talk that he is a poor campaigner who could drop out the race at any time. However, there was a strong show of political support for Healy at the fundraiser he held at Casino-in-The-Park on Tuesday, with DeGise, Ward D Councilman William Gaughan, Ward E Councilman Junior Maldonado attending, among other officials.
Ron Buonocore "Serving The People" - Jersey City police chief who has worked for the city since 1973, Buonocore's name had been mentioned as a possible candidate since the late mayor's death, but there wasn't serious consideration until Buonocore announced in August that he was running. Buonocore has a loyal following amongst many of the city's police officers for his work in the city's police unions over the years, and has won the support of Sandra Bolden Cunningham, the widow of late Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham. But he has earned the reputation of a taskmaster bordering on bully for his years as head of Public Works. Buonocore also has had to deal with the questions of his residency in the city and the legalities of a police chief running for public office in the city where he works. He recently stepped down to run.
Willie Flood "The Cunningham Team" - Former aide to late mayor Cunningham and a retired Jersey City teacher, Flood has received the support of the Hudson County Reform Democratic Organization, a splinter group of Democrats that was started by Cunningham that is led by his political strategists Bobby Jackson and Joseph Cardwell. She was not endorsed by Cunningham's widow, though, since Sandra Cunningham is endorsing Ron Buonocore. Flood said recently that she wants to end the "mean spiritedness that has been in City Hall for too long.
At first, Flood wasn't sure if she would run, since had been ill for some time and was also in mourning for Cunningham. Flood is considered a threat in terms of taking votes in the city's African-American community from candidate L. Harvey Smith.
Steve Lipski "Reform Government Now" - Ward C Councilman since 2001 who also runs a charter school in the Greenville section of the city, Lipski did not consider running for mayor until the week before the deadline, but he collected petitions. By Wednesday, he estimated that he may have submitted over 900 petitions. Lipski gave an energetic announcement on Tuesday on the front steps of the CREATE Charter School, where he outlined a six-point plan and emphasized the mantra "Vitality, not longevity," while looking to run a mobile campaign with the help of a $20,000 special vehicle, dubbed the RV "Reform Vehicle" to make his way around the city and promote his program of making government more efficient. Lipski is considered in local political circles as a bright, energetic campaigner who unfortunately tries to devote himself to too many projects.
James J. Carroll "Carroll - A New Perspective" - Jersey City Police officer and attorney who had previously run for City Council in 2001. Considered to have pockets of support in the Heights section of the city where he resides, but will be competing with Louis Manzo, Jerremiah Healy and Steve Lipski for the votes of Heights residents. There was speculation that he would join with Healy, but Healy's PR person, Maria Pignataro, would only say that nothing was definite. So as of this writing, Carroll is still running.
Alfred Marc Pine "Wake Up Jersey" - A 50-year old native of Brooklyn and a resident of Jersey City for the past 24 years, Pine is a general practice lawyer with an office in Brooklyn. But he said that he is a "political virgin." As Pine expressed in letters sent to local newspapers, he is just getting tired of what he sees of Jersey City and Hudson County government as "a cesspool of incompetence and corruption."
"I don't understand why the people don't say 'I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore'," he said. "It's time to take the city from the professional politicians."
Pine, whose only political experience was on the city's Rent Leveling Board from 1992-1994, said that he spent 17 days collecting what he estimated was 375 signatures. During the time spent walking through most of the city, Pine found himself meeting many people who were signing his petitions because, he claimed, he mentioned the acting mayor's name.
"I found that the two most unpopular politicians in Jersey City were George W. Bush and L. Harvey Smith," said Pine.
Pine said that he was a supporter of Louis Manzo when he ran for mayor in 2001, but said that he could not support him if he is "joined at the hip with Gerald McCann." McCann is one of Manzo's legislative aides and political organizers during this campaign.
Pine hopes to run a campaign as a solo effort on very little money, as he has taking on the establishment but believes that he will surprise many people with his effort. Pine said he would work to eliminate at-large seats on the City Council to bring in more area representation.
Others - Several of the underdog candidates were unable to be reached by press time - Dwayne Baskerville, Isaiah J. Gadsden, Hosam Mansour, Hilario Nunez, Jr., and Thomas Short. A candidate named Raymond Manzo (no relation to Ron) dropped out last week (see sidebar).
Sidebar What's in a name?
Assemblyman Lou Manzo and Jersey City municipal employee Raymond Manzo are not related. But for a while they had one thing in common - both were running for Jersey City mayor. Raymond Manzo dropped out last week.
Longtime political observers speculated that Raymond Manzo's candidacy was an attempt to confuse voters and take votes away from the frontrunner, Lou. Such discussions recalled old-style Hudson County politics - a politics of confusion.
"This is what old timers might have done," said one prominent politico over a beer at a downtown Jersey City pub.
Another prominent figure somewhat down the bar said this was a way of stealing votes from a frontrunner. "When you think an election will be close, you stick someone in with the same last name as your opponent," this fellow said. "The trick won't steal many votes. But it could make the difference between winning and losing."
Some registered voters who signed Raymond's petitions were family members of prominent supporters of Jerremiah Healy.
This suggests the vote may be a close one between Healy and Manzo, with Acting Mayor L Harvey Smith running a more distant third. - Al Sullivan Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org