If you think it’s too early to consider the 2013 Jersey City mayoral race, guess again. Jersey City residents recently received a “robo-call,” or a phone call with an automated voice, that asked, “In light of the recent corruption investigation, if an election was held today for Jersey City mayor, who would you vote for?”
An FBI corruption investigation resulted in the arrests on July 23 of 44 public officials and religious leaders, including several who said they were raising money for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s May re-election campaign. Even though Healy himself has not been implicated, some believe the arrests may spell the end of Healy’s term much sooner than 2013.
“I want to be 150 percent clear that I had nothing to do with this poll …” – Steven Fulop
Among the prominent names left out for mayoral consideration were community activist and past mayoral candidate Dan Levin and former Mayor Bret Schundler.
Downtown Jersey City resident Yvonne Balcer said she got the phone call on Monday, Oct. 12, and the number came up on her caller ID as 202, Washington D.C. The company, Global Crossing Telemanagement, has been used for surveys by various political entities including Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.
Apparently, it wasn’t just Downtown residents who got the calls. A highly placed political source said residents from the city’s Heights and Greenville sections also got the robocalls.
So who hired the company and why?
A 30-year veteran of Hudson County Democratic politics and a younger Republican involved in various campaigns both said they believe the calls were requisitioned by Steven Fulop, even though Fulop denies this.
“I think he is looking for Mariano Vega to vacate his council-at-large seat, and if there’s a special election, he wants to be at the head of the pack,” the Democrat said.
Councilman-at-Large Mariano Vega was among those arrested in July, specifically for allegedly taking $30,000 in bribes. Fulop and others have called for Vega to step down from his council seat.
If that happened, Fulop could run for the seat. Right now, Fulop represents Downtown.
The Democratic source believes that whoever wins that council-at-large seat would have a leg up for the future mayoral election.
The Republican source said he believes it is Fulop because the phone poll left out Levin and Schundler, both men who are seen by Fulop as a threat to his future political aspirations.
The Republican also believes the reason Fulop commissioned the poll is because he is concerned that he is only seen as a “Downtown candidate” and also wants to get further name recognition.
“Fulop wants to find out in what areas of the city he is strong, and what areas he is weak,” the Republican said.
Fulop says he’s not involved
But Fulop denied involvement with the poll.
“I want to be 150 percent clear that I had nothing to do with this poll, and I could name three reasons why,” Fulop said. “One, if I spent any money on this, it is public record; two, asking one question in a poll is amateur hour, and three, it is in poor taste since we just had an election and the next one is over three years away.”
Connors said he had no idea who would put out the poll, but said he was “flattered” that he would be mentioned in any poll with established politicians such as Healy, Fulop, and Cunningham.
“I am proud to serve on the school board,” Connors said. “But if the public feels that I can serve the city in another capacity, then I would be honored to do so when that time comes.”
Cunningham said she was “surprised” to hear about the poll. She said she believes that whoever put out the poll wanted to “make a name.”
“At this point, Mayor Healy is still in office and that has not changed,” Cunningham said. “The 2013 election is too far away to think about.”
Mayor Healy chuckled when asked about the poll and said he is not leaving office “anytime soon.”
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.