Last week saw the elimination of Ronald Buonocore as a mayoral candidate due to residency issues.
The remaining candidates include Acting Mayor and City Council President L. Harvey Smith, State Assemblyman Louis Manzo, City Councilman At Large Jerramiah Healy, Ward C Councilman Steve Lipski., former aide to late Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham Willie Flood, Hilario Nunez Jr., Alfred Marc Pine, Thomas Short, Isaiah Gadsden, Dwayne Baskerville, and Hosam Mansour.Residency requirement
It took two days of hearings in State Supreme Court and a decision from State Superior Court and State Appellate Court to establish a verdict - Ron Buonocore is no longer a candidate in the special election for mayor of Jersey City.
Buonocore, the Jersey City police chief on leave, was officially removed from the ballot last week after Superior Court of New Jersey - Appellate Division in Jersey City, consisting of a two-judge panel, upheld the ruling by State Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli on Oct. 1 that Buonocore had not been a resident of Jersey City for one year before the November election.
New Jersey state law requires any candidate running for a political office in a municipality to be a resident for one year before Election Day, which for this election is Nov. 2.
Buonocore's attorney, Alex Booth, had appealed Gallipoli's Oct. 1 decision, arguing against the constitutionality of the residency requirement law. He said Buonocore had many residences, but had established a presence in Jersey City that he argued should be accepted as residency. Buonocore is a Jersey City native who has worked in the Police Department and in Public Works since 1973.
The issue of Buonocore's residency had been in doubt ever since he announced that he was running for the mayor's office in August. When Buonocore filed a change of address with the Hudson County Superintendent of Elections office on July 27, he listed that his address was 33-35 Hudson St., which is the location of the Liberty Towers Apartments in downtown Jersey City. But his last address of voter registration was 15 Country Lane in Hardyston, N.J., in Sussex County about 55 miles from Jersey City.
When Buonocore had been asked by reporters how long he had resided at the Hudson Street location, he had said that he had moved there in late July but had registered to vote in Jersey City at least 29 days before the special election on Nov. 2. He also said he had been a Jersey City resident for over a year which qualified him as candidate.
Asked where he had resided in Jersey City before moving to the Hudson Street address, Buonocore had told the press that he couldn't reveal that information so as to protect his family and himself with respect to his position as police chief of Jersey City (he had been appointed to that position by late Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham in 2001).
Questions lingered about his residency, culminating in a legal challenge filed by Louis Manzo to take Buonocore off the ballot for the special mayoral election. Hearings in State Superior Court on Sept. 29 and 30 resulted in Buonocore saying he had lived rent-free at 147 Columbia Ave., a house owned by Charles Winterhalter, a Jersey City police officer. He said he lived there for about a year before he moved to the 33-35 Hudson St. address.
A resident at the Columbia Avenue address said in court that she never saw Buonocore during the entire year that he had claimed he lived there.
Hudson County Clerk Javier Inclan established a ballot last week for the upcoming November election that does not include Buonocore. Buonocore's future
But other questions arise as to Buonocore's future. The first question is which other mayoral candidate Buonocore he will endorse. His spokesman, David Vermillion, responded by e-mail that "as of now, he plans to consult his supporters and family and consider his next steps. He has not decided to give his endorsement to anyone at this point."
The second question is whether he will be terminated from his position as Jersey City Police Chief, from which he had taken a leave in order to run for mayor. The fact that he had lived rent-free in an employee's building also raises questions.
Acting City Corporation Counsel Hope Blackburn told the Jersey City Reporter on Wednesday that Buonocore is officially on unpaid administrative leave until Nov. 3, and as of this week, he is still the city's police chief, with Captain James Blake as acting police chief.
Meanwhile, his most prominent supporter, Sandra Bolden Cunningham, the widow of late mayor Glenn D. Cunningham, announced her endorsement of mayoral candidate Willie Flood at a press conference on Thursday. Sandra Cunningham endorses Flood
As soon as Sandra Bolden Cunningham entered the campaign headquarters of mayoral candidate Willie Flood on Thursday afternoon, she was greeted with applause and affection by Flood supporters who were awaiting her.
Cunningham was at that Martin Luther King Drive location specifically to announce her endorsement of Flood to fill the remaining term of her late husband. Glenn Cunningham passed away as the result of a massive heart attack on May 25.
Cunningham said she saw Flood as the person who will continue the legacy of her late husband.
"Glenn was a man of compassion, generosity and kindness who truly loved Jersey City," Cunningham said. "I feel those are essential qualities to being a good mayor, and anyone who knows Willie Flood knows that she embodies those qualities." Cunningham was flanked by Flood and County Freeholder Jeffrey Dublin.
After Cunningham finished speaking, Flood hugged her, with both shedding tears.
Flood then said that "Sandy Cunningham has made my heart glad," and welcomed Cunningham's endorsement.
Among Flood supporters who were happy to see Cunningham endorse their candidate was Virginia Miller, a longtime Jersey City resident working on Flood's campaign.
"As I told Sandy, Glenn is smiling today because he knows this is the right thing for her to do," said Miller.
When asked if she would be campaigning vigorously for Flood, Cunningham maintained her stance of lending support if needed but would not do any "street campaigning."
Joseph Cardwell, campaign strategist for Flood, said that Cunningham's involvement in Flood's campaign would be more active than Cunningham indicated, but that was yet to be determined. Sidebar Mayoral forum addresses issues
Last Wednesday night at St. Matthew's Church was the setting for a mayoral forum sponsored by the Jersey City Lesbian and Gay Outreach, Inc. (JCLGO).
The candidates who participated were Acting Mayor and City Council President L. Harvey Smith, State Assemblyman Louis Manzo, City Councilman At Large Jerramiah Healy, Ward C Councilman Steve Lipski, former aide to late Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham Willie Flood, teacher Hilario Nunez Jr., attorney Alfred Marc Pine, and substitute teacher Thomas Short.
The forum consisted of candidates fielding questions submitted by members of the audience and posed by the moderator for the forum, Steven Goldstein of the gay rights group Garden State Equality.
Candidates fielded question on a variety of topics ranging from whether or not Gov. James McGreevey should have resigned from office to affordable housing in Jersey City.
On the issue of afforable housing, Flood said there should be a support system for those people who want to purchase homes in the city rather than being left to struggle with few resources. Manzo said that the city could utilize such methods such as cleaning up contaminated sites around the city with monies available from the state.
On the question if Gov. McGreevey should have resigned, Smith said that "my hands are full running Jersey City" and that he is concentrating on his work as Mayor and City Council President.
Lipski responded "the answer is absolutely" that McGreevey should have resigned, because Golan Cipel, an Israeli national whom McGreevey said was his lover, should not have been appointed as his top security advisor. He said the resignation had not nothing to do with McGreevey's sexuality but rather his poor choice of political appointees.
Pine gave what may have been the most memorable comment of the forum when he answered that officials with questionable ethics like McGreevey should be put in a set of stocks for a month and displayed in a town center like Journal Square.
After the forum, some of the candidates and audience members had mixed reactions to the event.
Eric-Anders Nilsson said that he was glad to see independent candidates at this forum, as opposed to the mayoral debate held at the Loew's Theater on Sept. 30 (where he worked as an official timekeeper during the debate), as independent candidate Alfred Marc Pine got up from his seat and protested his exclusion from that debate.
Jim Pao and his friend Laurie Devino both expressed their displeasure that the forum wasn't very organized and that there were too many candidates participating in the forum to hear substantive answers.
Dave Casson said that he was happy that he was in attendance at the first mayoral forum organized by the Jersey City Lesbian and Gay Outreach, and that he was impressed by independent candidate Hilario Nunez, Jr. for showing seriousness in his answers to questions posed, even if he was not knowledgeable on all topics covered.
Lipski said that he appreciated this forum because it was where the candidates "could put forward ideas in a civil environment." He also suggested that there should be other mayoral forums like this one.
Smith said that he was pleased with this forum because there was a concentration on the issues, and because it was impartial. - RK