Besides Roberts going head to head against Marsh, both candidates' tickets of three council-at-large hopefuls are also competing for seats.
An insight to future strategy
"Those people that find the faults, find the criticism, that sell the gloom and doom," Roberts said after his victory Tuesday night, "well, they're [up] the street [at Marsh's headquarters]. We're down here, we finished first and we are looking forward to challenging Carol Marsh."
Roberts said he will be running a quality of life campaign, noting that Hoboken is one of the most popular cities in New Jersey and is only getting better. He will argue that the streets are clean and safe, and that more parks and affordable housing are on the way.
Roberts will also likely paint Marsh and Councilman Tony Soares, who is in the City Council runoff, as obstructionists who slowed the progress of the Roberts' agenda. The two butted heads this year over a steep climb in the city budget.
"Over the last year and half, it has been nearly impossible to do the simplest of things governmentally with people sniping at us every inch of the way," Roberts said.
But Michael Lenz, Marsh's campaign manager, said Marsh stacks up favorably against Roberts. "What the mayor did was bet everything on [Tuesday night]," Lenz said, who was critical of the negative literature the mayor put out that attacked Marsh. "They were hoping that they would be facing someone other than Carol Marsh in the runoff, and now he has to answer for [the claims that he made]."
Some of Roberts' claims against Marsh mirrored her own claims against him: That she was raising money from questionable sources. But Roberts also published literature in the projects making uncorroborated claims against Marsh, including saying that she planned to cut 200 City Hall jobs. The Marsh campaign will likely attack Roberts' record and continue to note that the city's budget has climbed from $54 to $72 million in four years. (Roberts has blamed rising health costs and contracts.)
Marsh also will likely continue to paint Roberts as part of a political machine that is funded largely by developers, lawyers and other vendors who do business with the city.
"[Our campaign is about] talking to our neighbors about getting out there and supporting a true grass roots campaign," said Brain Urbano, who in the runoff on Marsh's ticket. "We had a median contribution of $100, and most if it came from individuals. It's not about developer money; it's not about getting money from city vendors."
Will attacks continue?
Several campaigns have taken heat for the amount of negative campaigning over the past two months.
Roberts said Wednesday that his ticket will have a more positive tone while preparing for the runoff. "With five groups running, it required a little more of a comparative message, which some people took to as being negative," Roberts said. "Now we will have time for a positive message, and we will present in greater detail what we have done in our first term and what I want to do in my second term."
Lenz said that the Marsh campaign will challenge Roberts on the issues, but will not be negative and nasty.
"We have run a campaign that has been positive and honest, and will continue to do that but will make a clear comparison of our differences," Lenz said.
'Old Hoboken' vs. 'new Hoboken'?
Since the beginning of Hoboken's development boom about two decades ago, there has been a political divide - at least perceptually - between what is termed "old Hoboken" and "new Hoboken."
During the 1980s, some of the "born and raised" residents felt they were pushed out of their neighborhoods by newcomer "Yuppies" and condo conversions. Politics at the time was heated, and several school board and mayoral elections have seen so-called "newcomer" candidates vs. "old-timers." But those terms have been criticized; in fact, a person who has been active in town for 20 years (like Carol Marsh) may still be perceived as a "newcomer" simply because she wasn't born here.
How real is the divide? It is hard to say; anger comes out on local internet message boards, but it is often written by the same few screen names.
In this runoff, much is going to be made of the old Hoboken versus new Hoboken dynamic, with Marsh, a former financial executive, being associated with new Hoboken, and Roberts (who comes from a longtime Hoboken family) with old Hoboken.
But it's not nearly that simple a dichotomy.
Old-timer Michael Russo, for instance, has sided with Marsh on the council against Roberts on budget issues. It is uncertain right now whether he will endorse Marsh or Roberts.
Both Roberts' and Marsh's tickets have included a young professional attorney among their three council candidates. Both also have included a Latino.
Both the campaigns say that their side is inclusive and representative of the bridge between the old and the new, while blaming the other side for being divisive and escalating the friction between the old and the new.
"They are going to try to make this old Hoboken vs. new Hoboken, but that is absolutely wrong," Lenz said. "The people that are paying for their campaign don't do it because they are old Hoboken, but because they are going to get something. The kids that are walking around in Roberts T-shirts aren't doing it because they are old Hoboken, but they are getting something." Soares said about the Marsh ticket, "[Ours] isn't a Yuppie ticket; this is a ticket for everyone." Roberts countered that it's his administration is the one that is inclusive of both the old and the new. Roberts was one of the first proponents of charter schools, for instance, when they were introduced to the city in the mid-1990s.
"I look at Hoboken as a city of many ethic and economic levels," Roberts said Wednesday, "and my administration has celebrated this diversity."
He added that his current ticket represents that diversity, with Peter Cammarano, a young professional, Theresa LaBruno, a born and raised Hobokenite, and Ruben Ramos Jr., a Hispanic who grew up in the city's public housing projects.
Roberts said, "This administration has brought people from all groups into government."
Reaching out to the other camps
One of the major themes that ran through both Roberts' and Marsh's speeches Tuesday night was multiple overtures to campaigns of Frank Raia, Michael Russo, and Evelyn Smith in order to get their endorsements.
While none of the losing campaigns had made an endorsement as of press time, the courting for their support has already begun.
Both Marsh and Roberts realize that support from the other campaigns would go long way toward getting elected on June 14.
Roberts said he is pleased with an 800-vote margin and said his polling has shown that he is the likely second choice of those who voted for Raia, Russo and Smith.
Sen. Bernard Kenny, one of Roberts' most ardent supporters, said Tuesday night the Team Roberts is going to form a coalition that will beat Marsh.
Kenny said, "I'm firmly of the belief that we will reach out to Frank Raia and Michael Russo, and all of those around the city that felt that their candidacy was worthy of the support...we're going to bring them back."
Meanwhile, Marsh said Wednesday that when an incumbent can only pull one third of the vote on the first ballot, it shows weakness, and there's a large percentage of the electorate that is unhappy with the performance of the Roberts administration.
She also said that Roberts' negative campaigning has turned many people off.
"There were four campaigns that ran decent, good solid, issue-oriented campaigns, and I want to congratulate all of the people that ran," Marsh said. She added that she would welcome their support for her campaign.