JERSEY CITY – Nearly a month after Jersey City residents elected Steven Fulop as the city’s next mayor, the composition of the council was finally determined after yesterday’s runoff election.
Runoffs were held for all three City Council at-large seats and in city wards A, B, C, D, and F, although in Ward F only one candidate remained on the ballot on Election Day.
The results produced several surprises, the biggest of which was in Ward A, where the little-known Frank Gajewski, a former Jersey City Police Department (JCPD) chief, defeated former Superintendent of Schools Charles Epps. On the first ballot, which took place on May 14, Epps received more votes than Gajewski and was slightly favored to win the runoff.
However, preliminary vote totals from the runoff show that Gajewski, who ran with Fulop, received 2,101 votes to Epps’ 1,380 votes. Epps had been the Ward A candidate of outgoing Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, who lost last month to Fulop.
In Ward B, Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal, who also ran with Fulop, handily defeated independent candidate Esther Wintner by a vote of 1,493 to 539.
In two other contested races independent candidates fared much better, however.
Retired JCPD officer and activist Richard Boggiano, who ran independently, defeated current Ward C City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez, who ran with Fulop. Boggiano received more votes than Lopez last month on the first ballot. Still, Team Fulop worked hard over the past month to put Lopez over the top in the runoff.
At Liberty House, where Fulop and his allies had gathered on election night to get the runoff results, Ward C activist John Hannusak called the election “bittersweet” due to Lopez’s loss. Preliminary vote totals show that Lopez received 1,332 votes to Boggiano’s 1,686 votes.
Independent candidate Michael Yun, president of the Central Avenue Special Improvement District in the Jersey City Heights, defeated another Fulop candidate, Sean Connors, in Ward D. Yun received 1,833 votes to Connors’ 1,402, according to preliminary numbers.
Ward F City Councilwoman Diane Coleman, who is allied with Fulop and who ran on his ticket, received 1,490 votes in an uncontested race. Jermaine Robinson, who came in second in the May 14 election, went to court last month to have his name formally removed from the runoff ballot. Thus, Coleman’s was the only name that appeared on the Ward F ballot.
All three of Fulop’s at-large candidates – Rolando Lavarro Jr., Joyce Watterman, and Daniel Rivera – won, defeating At-large City Councilwoman Viola Richardson and independent candidate Sean Connelly. The results of the at-large race send Richardson home after a decade on the City Council. Like Epps, Richardson ran on Healy’s slate.
Indeed, voters rejected any candidate who had ever had an affiliation with Healy or the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
“Today, we reaffirmed what we started on May 14,” Lavarro told supporters at Liberty House Tuesday night. “Jersey City is ready to turn the page and move in a new direction. It’s not going to be business as usual.”
Mayor-elect Fulop said he believes Boggiano and Yun will be able to work with the new administration. – E. Assata Wright