For the second election cycle in a row, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s endorsed candidate suffered a defeat at the polls, an outcome that might not bode well for Healy’s own reelection effort next year.
On Election Day, Ward F residents chose Diane Coleman to be their representative on the City Council. Coleman, who garnered 3,453 votes, defeated incumbent Ward F Councilwoman Michele Massey, Rev. Tyrone Ballon, and community activist Debbie Walker. Massey, who finished in second place, received 1,933 votes, followed by Ballon and Walker, who received 542 and 254 votes respectively, with 96.7 percent of the vote counted.
Election results had not been certified by press time on Friday, Nov. 9.
Coleman will now serve out the remainder of Viola Richardson’s term as the Ward F City Council rep, a term that ends in May 2013. In a special election held in November 2011, Richardson, who had represented Ward F on the council for nearly a decade, ran for and won an at-large seat on the City Council.
Coleman has said that she plans to run for a full four-year term next spring to keep her seat.
“I’m glad that I’ll now have the chance to address many of the issues facing this community, including crime, affordable housing, and job creation,” Coleman said.
Healy’s allies are downplaying the election results. But most of Jersey City’s political observers saw the Coleman-Massey matchup as a proxy race for the 2013 mayoral fight between Healy and Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop, who endorsed Coleman.
For the past several years Fulop has been building a political machine that can work at the grassroots level and propel his chosen candidates into elected offices. The Fulop machine – which is largely rooted in his home base downtown – has successfully worked to elect eight of the nine current school board members and is already geared up to work for Fulop’s 2013 mayoral campaign.
‘People didn’t even know this special election was happening.’ – Michele Massey
Coleman’s victory could be interpreted as a victory for the Fulop machine as well, since it demonstrates that he has reach and organizing strength in a ward where some people speculated he might not be popular.
For now, Fulop won’t say whether Coleman will be the Ward F candidate on his 2013 City Council slate, but most people expect her to be his pick.
“Diane was easy to support, as she has been doing social services in the community for 11 years,” Fulop said the day after the election. “She knows the challenges and has a reputation that speaks for itself. I couldn’t be more excited for Ward F and for the opportunity to work with her as she focuses on such issues as crime, police visibility in the community. She will be terrific.”
Massey, who has not ruled out another run for the council next May, said she believes she lost because many Ward F residents did not know about the special election.
“People didn’t even know this special election was happening,” Massey said. “There were districts where [Pres. Barack] Obama received 524 votes but only 138 people voted in the Ward F race. And even the poll workers didn’t know this race was going on, which was a problem, too.”
Hurricane Sandy, Massey added, also forced her to cancel a fundraiser and abandon campaigning. The storm also forced the cancelation of a Ward F debate among the candidates that was scheduled for Monday, Oct. 29.
Massey is now the third Healy-backed candidate to be defeated at the polls in the past two years.
Last year, during a special election to fill two at-large seats on the City Council, Kalimah Ahmad and Radames “Ray” Velazquez were defeated by Richardson and Rolando Lavarro Jr. Like Massey, Ahmad and Velazquez had been appointed to the City Council by Healy following the resignation of Willie Flood, due to illness, and the resignation Mariano Vega. Vega left the council after being arrested in the 2009 Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation known as Operation Bid Rig.
Healy endorsed Ahmad and Velazquez in the Nov. 2011 special election, but they finished fourth and fifth in the race, respectively.
Some observers have speculated that Healy’s endorsement of Massey may have hurt her in the special election. Ahmad and Velazquez where seen by some residents as being puppets of the Healy administration and its policies, and last month Fulop called Massey a “rubber stamp” for the administration.
Healy supporters scoff at that assessment, however.
“Healy wasn’t on the ballot,” said one campaign insider. “Do you really think the Coleman voters were voting for [Fulop] against Healy? No. We never looked at this like a major front. Healy-Fulop, that’s the main event.”
Joshua Henne, spokesman for the Healy campaign, echoed this sentiment.
“On election day, Mayor Healy was helping Jersey City recover from Superstorm Sandy and ensuring that the families who live here were safe, with a nor’easter bearing down the next day,” Henne said. “The mayor wasn’t even on the ballot. He is elated that Barack Obama and Bob Menendez will continue leading our nation and state in the years to come.”
Massey’s last official day as a councilwoman was Sunday, Nov. 11. At press time no date had been scheduled yet for Coleman to be sworn in.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.
Jersey City voters support moving school board race to Nov.
In a non-binding public question put to voters in Jersey City on Election Day, residents overwhelmingly supported moving future school board elections from April to November.
Voters supported the move by a vote of 20,249 in favor to 7,426 against.
City Councilman Steven Fulop, who spearheaded the effort to have this public question put on the ballot, said he will introduce a measure on Nov. 28 to formally move school board elections, beginning in 2013.