With petition signatures still being reviewed by the City Clerk, the election officially kicked off on Sept. 5. Assuming the petitions for most of those who filed are valid, this fall’s ballot could be a long one.
Mayor Steven Fulop is seeking his second four-year term, and is opposed by Bill Matsikoudis, who served as corporation counsel to Fulop’s predecessor, Jerramiah Healy. Former Assemblyman Charles Mainor, who announced last spring that he would run for mayor, later decided to run for the Ward A council instead and withdrew his name from consideration, then announced he will not seek a council seat after all.
Fulop was elected mayor in 2013 after serving for two terms as the city’s Ward E councilman. He has announced that he will not seek a third term if he wins this year.
His campaign has focused on some of the successes of his first term, including expansion of the park system, an increase in police manpower, and the promotion of affordable housing. Fulop has also taken credit for expanding redevelopment beyond the waterfront, and development in Journal Square in particular.
The lack of development in Journal Square featured prominently in Fulop’s 2013 campaign against Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
“I am excited about conducting a positive, issue oriented campaign.” – Bill Matsikoudis
Matsikoudis has questioned many of Fulop’s successes. He has issued a number of position papers that outline how his administration could do better.
“As we head into the homestretch, I am excited about conducting a positive, issue oriented campaign and explaining to voters our vision of how we can make Jersey City safer, more affordable and a better place to live for all of our residents,” Matsikoudis said in a statement.
This sets the groundwork for what promises to be an intense campaign. Fulop has already come out swinging.
“When we took office, Jersey City was coming off a massive corruption arrest, with 35 elected and appointed officials from the previous administration being hauled off in handcuffs for bribery,” he said. “My opponent was a senior advisor for that administration at the time. The city also had the lowest number of police officers in 20 years, no affordable housing plan, no recreation plan, and development only in one part of the city. We corrected many of these issues, but we still have lots of work to do in order to get to where we want it to be. This election is going to be a clear question on whether Jersey City wants to return to the days prior, when many of these issues existed.”
For his part, Matsikoudis has blasted the Fulop’s campaign fundraising tactics.
“The press continues to document how my opponent raises funds in a transactional manner while we continue to raise money ethically,” he said in a campaign plea to his supporters.
Although both mayoral candidates are Democrats, this is a nonpartisan municipal election, although behind the scenes the Hudson County Democratic Organization and other political parties do work for the candidates of their choice.
This is the first Jersey City municipal election to be held in November in modern times after voters approved a referendum last year. The Jersey City election does retain a runoff provision, so a candidate must get better than 50 percent of the vote or face a runoff election between the two highest vote getters.
While this won’t affect this year’s mayoral race, it is expected to play a significant role in the council races, where in some wards as many as seven candidates are running.
Fulop currently has six allies on the nine-member City Council. This could change with the November election, since even the at-large seats which currently are in his camp face serious opposition.
Councilman Frank Gajewski, who represents Ward A, is not seeking re-election, but Ward C Councilman Michael Boggiano and Ward D Councilman Michael Yun are seeking new terms.
The Matsikoudis team
Running with Matsikoudis is a partial slate of council candidates. This includes Esther Wintner, who is running at large. Wintner has served as president of Civic JC, a group often critical of Fulop.
Also running at large on this ticket is Dr. Michael A. Winds, an administrator with the Jersey City public schools. Esmeralda Trinidad, who is also running at large, is a former vice chairperson of the Jersey City Democratic Organization.
This team also has Rick Johnson, a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church who helped re-establish the Linden Avenue Block Association, running in Ward A.
Councilman Chris Gadsen, a vice principal at Lincoln High School, is running for reelection in Ward B.
Carmen Vega, who is running in Ward D, works at Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus.
Jake Hudnut, who is running in Ward E, is seeking to be the first openly gay city council person.
Yolanda Dortch-Amiker, who is running in Ward F, is a retired Army staff sergeant and combat veteran and founder of multiple non-profits helping veterans, ex-cons and victims of abuse.
The Fulop Team
Mayor Fulop has also fielded a partial ticket of running mates.
His three at large candidates include Council President Rolando Lavarro, Councilwoman and pastor Joyce Watterman, and Councilman Daniel Rivera, an emergency medical technician.
First-time candidate Moriah ‘Mo’ Kinberg , a former campaign manager for the NJ Work Environment Council ,will be running on this ticket in Ward D. Also running on this ticket is Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson and Ward A council candidate Denise Ridley, a marketing professional. Mira Prinz-Arey, a community activist, will run in Ward B.
Running as independents for at large seats are Brian Lane, who ran for council in 2011, and former Assemblyman Sean Connors.
In Ward A, Joe Conte, former Democratic chair in Jersey City is running for council as an independent.
Jessica Hellinger, a real estate professional, is running in Ward B.
Rekha Nandwani, a grass roots activist, is running in Ward C, as is John Hanussak, a member of the city’s Rapid Response team, and A. Janet Chevres, a business analyst.
In Ward D, Rafael Torres, retired firefighter, and Carmen Vega, a former Jersey City Puerto Rican Day Parade president, are running for council.
In Ward E, the candidates are: Rebecca Symes, formerly general counsel for real-estate investment firm Dixon Advisory, who worked for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; James Solomon, at teacher at New Jersey City University and Hudson County Community College; Michael Billy Bisogno, a community activist; Madeleine Giansanti Cag, an attorney, and Nickolas Grillo, a community activist.
In Ward F, Tyrone Ballon, a terminal supervisor/dispatcher for the PATH system, Dennis Burgess , who runs a boot camp as Master Sup, and Michael Griffin, a café owner, are running.
The election will be held Nov. 7.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.