JERSEY CITY AND BEYOND – With the Jersey City municipal elections little more than two months away, both the leading mayoral campaigns rolled out their first ads this week.
Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy debuted an ad titled “Since,” a clip of a recent interview Christiane Amanpour did with him recently in which he touts Jersey City’s 2012 crime statistics. Last year the city had the fewest number of homicides since 1969.
Healy rival and City Councilman Steven Fulop unleashed two ads this week. One, called “Hudson,” shows Fulop swimming the filthy waters of the Hudson River between Jersey City and Manhattan as he essentially introduces himself to voters who aren’t familiar with his bio and resume.
But the ad that seems to be causing a stir is one titled “How Many,” in which Fulop talks to a small group of youngsters about gun violence in their neighborhoods. All of the children in the ad are African American. All are elementary school aged.
The ad begins with Fulop, seated next to an African American man in a Jersey City police officer uniform, asking the kids, “How many people have ever heard, in their neighborhood, gunshots?”
A majority of the children raise their hands.
At Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, LaVerne Washington, an activist who tries to kept at-risk youth out of trouble, asked Fulop whether the kids were, in fact, Jersey City residents and wondered whether they were being “exploited” for political purposes.
“I think it’s very distasteful to run a commercial like that,” said Washington. “You can do what you want on the campaign, but for the children to be exploited—I think it’s disgraceful.”
Fulop insisted all of the children are indeed Jersey City residents whose parents were present when the ad was filmed.
“It’s not distasteful when those are not actors,” he added. “Those are 10-year-old, 12-year-old children from across the entire city, and when you ask them how many of them have heard gunshots in their neighborhood and the majority raise their hand, or you ask them how many of them know somebody who got shot, and a lot of them can answer affirmatively, that in itself is disturbing…I would argue that point all day.”
Residents, specifically those with ties to the Jersey City Police Department (JCPD), have also questioned the identity of the man seated next to Fulop in the campaign spot, since he isn’t known to any JCPD personnel.
When asked by the Reporter whether the man was a Jersey City police officer or a paid actor, Fulop said he is neither. Police Department regulations prohibit officers from appearing in political ads, he said. Fulop stated that it is, however, legal for a JCPD uniform to be rented and used in a political ad, which is what his campaign did.
The man in the uniform, the councilman clarified, is a campaign volunteer. – E. Assata Wright