The landslide mayoral win by incumbent Jerramiah Healy over contenders Melissa Holloway (a former councilwoman) and Alfred Marc Pine (an attorney and political newcomer) was more like an avalanche, as Healy won over 75 percent of the vote when most of the ballots were tallied Tuesday night.
Healy received 18,389 votes, while Holloway received 4,649 votes, or 19 percent of the vote, and non-practicing attorney Pine received 1,424 votes, or 5 percent.
Holloway had gotten off to a bit of a slow start after Healy won several court battles to keep her off the ballot due to what he said was a lack of valid petitions to run.
But Holloway, a former councilwoman, won a state Supreme Court decision and got back on the ballot late in the race. Healy has been serving as the mayor since November after winning the special election to fill the remaining term of late Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham.
"Over the next four years, I intend to work, of course, with my City Council," said Healy Tuesday night in a victory speech. "And once again, [I will work] with my good friend who has done a wonderful job as a county executive, Tom DeGise. Additionally, I intend to work with all the other county elected officials, state elected officials, and federal elected officials to bring this city the attention, aid and assistance it needs to bloom and boom."
Of the nine City Council seats that were being contested, six were won by candidates running on Healy's slate. They were Mary Spinello (a political newcomer) in Ward B, Steve Lipski in Ward C, William Gaughan in Ward D, and at-large candidates Peter Brennan, Willie Flood (a former councilwoman) and Mariano Vega.
Another Healy candidate, Rev. Ronnie-Calvin Clark, was defeated in the Ward F City Council race by incumbent Viola Richardson, who, along with other incumbents Lipski, Gaughan, Brennan and Vega, retained her council seat.
Ward E was a surprise. Incumbent Councilman Junior Maldonado lost to former congressional candidate Steve Fulop.
As it turned out by 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, the results showed that Fulop won by over 300 votes. Maldonado had been a councilman since 2001 when he defeated then-incumbent Jaime Vazquez in that year's municipal election.
Maldonado appeared on a stage during the celebration with Healy and other Healy candidates, where Healy hugged him and thanked him for four years of service on the City Council.
Maldonado supporters such as Hudson County Freeholder Radames Velazquez were extremely disappointed that Maldonado had lost his council seat, blaming the loss on how Maldonado was portrayed by his opponent and on a shift in the demographics of the ward.
"[Maldonado] was seen as just a Hispanic candidate, not a candidate who happened to be Hispanic," said Velazquez. "I saw that he appealed to many different groups downtown, but new people didn't know who Maldonado was or what kind of track record he had as a councilman."
Fulop, in a phone interview last week, confirmed that the changes in Jersey City's downtown population helped get him elected as the new Ward E councilman. But Fulop also credited the successful strategy that his campaign team employed to get out the vote.
"We did a good job making inroads into the Muslim community, the African-American community and the Russian community," said Fulop, "and also in the Hispanic community to some degree through people working for me such as Noemi Velasquez and Roberto Cruz."
Fulop also looks forward to working with his new colleagues on the City Council, and especially with Healy.
"I look forward to working with Mayor Healy," he said. "I respect Mayor Healy and I voted for him." Fulop also said that he would reach out to Maldonado in the near future to wish him well in his future endeavors.
Meanwhile, Ward A won't know who their councilperson will be until after June 14, when a runoff election takes place. Retired city employee Sottolano, running on the Healy ticket, received 48 percent of the vote. Former city corporation counsel DeSoto received 22 percent of the vote.
First time candidate Sottolano didn't seem upset by the prospect of being involved in a runoff.
"Well, I'm right about 160 votes short to prevent a runoff, but we haven't counted absentee ballots and there's one district outstanding," said Sottolano. "So we'll see where it is and if it's a runoff. Then, away we go."
DeSoto was enthusiastic about possibility of a runoff. "I look forward to a runoff election. I look forward to a number of debates with my opponent so the people see what he stands for and I can present my platform as well," said DeSoto. The aftermath
Those who are elected to the mayor's office and the City Council will be sworn in on July 1 at City Hall. On the same day, the City Council will hold its reorganization meeting where a new City Council president will be selected. current City Council President and City Councilman at-Large L. Harvey Smith chose not to run in this year's election.
The mayor earns a starting salary of about $90,000, according to a city ordinance. The exact amount depends on the time accrued working for the city. There is a $24,500 annual salary for the City Council president and $22,500 for the other eight members of the council.
The runoff between DeSoto and Sottolano will take place on June 14, a week after the primary election for the state assemblymen and county freeholder. According to Deputy City Clerk Sean Gallagher, the ballot will be sent out about a week before the runoff election.
Also, there will be a ballot drawing to determine the positions of the runoff candidates. A runoff election takes place when a candidate does not get 50 percent of the vote on the first ballot, or initial election. No great surprise
Healy and the other candidates on his slate, with the exception of Clark, gathered at the Casino-In-The-Park restaurant Tuesday night for the post-election celebration.
Healy won big, even with such a low voter turnout. That didn't mean he wasn't excited as he hugged the candidates who ran on his ticket. Just his mere presence elicited cheers of "Jerry, Jerry" and "four more years." Healy himself even broke into a rendition of "God Bless America."
His speech echoed the platform that resounded throughout his campaign and his six-month mayoral term. He said he will continue to pursue his biggest issues for the next four years: Cleaner streets, more police officers on the force, and unity between city and county officials.
And he said he looks forward to building Jersey City into what he has referred to in the past as "a world-class city."
"We have a great city here, as you all know and I have said many times, and I know this city is destined for great things in the very near future," said Healy, "and my job is to make sure that destiny is fulfilled, and I, together with this council and all those elected officials, will do it."
Unfortunately for Holloway, she was not able to fulfill her destiny to become the first female African-American mayor in Jersey City history.
"The people of Jersey City have spoken, and I congratulate Mayor Healy on this win and I know he will do his best for the whole city of Jersey City," said Holloway. "Of course, we may have not won the war, but we finished the race, and tomorrow is another day."
Meanwhile, Pine, as always, saw the comedy in his poor showing.
"I figured I did not want to win by too large margin, or else I would have to give some of my votes to other candidates," said Pine, who also expressed disdain for Healy's win. "I think his [four-year term] will be worse than being married to him."
And Pine, quite the cockeyed optimist, as he looks to "take over" whenever Healy is ready to step down from office. Reactions of the winners and the voters
The results of last week's election made a number of candidates very happy.
But "very happy" was an understatement when describing Ward C Councilman Lipski's reaction to his win. The ever-enthusiastic Lipski raised both his arms and yelled "Yeah!" when introduced by Healy during his speech.
After the speech, Lipski then greeted with bear hugs, kisses and handshakes the throngs of supporters approaching him. But he saved most of his affection for his wife, Yraida, as they celebrated with a dance.
Lipski had good reason to be excited, as he won re-election in Ward C with approximately 51 percent of the vote, defeating former JC Parking Authority Director Jimmy King and Dr. Joseph Buttigheri, thus avoiding a runoff with second place finisher King.
"I'm ecstatic, a first ballot victory!" said Lipski, "because Councilman Steve Lipski has taken a king and a doctor with one silver bullet." Who will be prez?
Vega won a fourth term as City Councilman, making Vega and re-elected Ward D City Councilman Gaughan the City Council members with the most terms of service.
There is speculation that Vega and Gaughan are being considered for the City Council president position because of their years served on the council.
"I think it's a privilege to serve the people of Jersey City, and I got very good support citywide," said Vega. "And I will honor that support with good legislative service for the people that elected me, and for the people who didn't elect me, I hope to gain their trust in the future."
For Flood, it is a return to the City Council where she will serve again as a city councilwoman at-large, after what she called a "grueling" election campaign.
"I am taking it all in and I am very happy. A lot of people worked very hard for me and when I was tired, they still pushed me on," said Flood. "I'm going to work very hard for the people of Jersey City." SIDEBAR The vote totals for the mayoral and City Council races were tallied on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. by the Jersey City City Clerk's Office working in tandem with the Hudson County Clerk's Office. The totals were changing throughout last week, since there were outstanding votes that were not tallied because various election precincts throughout the city did not supply the information gathered from the electronic voting machines.
The machines have to be opened and the cartridge on which the voting information is stored has to be taken out, but not before a printout is provided that gives a breakdown of the votes registered.
There will be an automatic court ordered recheck of the voting machines this Monday to see if the voter totals are the same as what were tallied on election night.
The vote totals that were tallied as of Wednesday morning provides some interesting insights on how a portion of the estimated 119,723 registered Jersey City voters came out to vote in Tuesday's election: 24,489 voters came out to vote for the mayoral candidates, 47,222 voted for City Council at-large candidates, and 21,962 voted for a City Council ward candidate.
The numbers for mayor alone is a far cry from past elections, probably the smallest in recent memory. In the November 2004 special mayoral election just six months ago, 62,641 voted for a mayor among 11 candidates. In the May 2001 municipal election, the turnout was 38,652 voters, and in the June 2001 runoff election between eventual winner Glenn Cunningham and Tom DeGise, there were 42,063 voters.
In the 1985 mayoral runoff between eventual winner Anthony Cucci and Gerald McCann, Cucci received 37,463 and McCann 30,418 - a total of 67,881 voters.
Why was the vote total down for this year's municipal election?
One of the major reasons cited was that there was no statewide or federal election coinciding with the municipal election, bringing out voters in large numbers.
But a number of voters have pointed out that in this year's election there were very few mayoral candidates running and, therefore, not as many choices.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org