Fulop wins re-election in landslide
But council control will be decided in runoff; split victory in school board race
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Nov 12, 2017 | 2199 views | 0 0 comments | 86 86 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HAVING A BALL – Mayor Steven Fulop was thrilled with the result of the municipal election and made that clear during the celebration after the polls closed.
HAVING A BALL – Mayor Steven Fulop was thrilled with the result of the municipal election and made that clear during the celebration after the polls closed.
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Mayor Steven Fulop’s landslide re-election victory over former city attorney Bill Matsikoudis sets the stage for a battle to control the City Council, as four of the nine seats on the council (all ward seats) will be decided in runoff elections on Dec. 5.

The margin of Fulop’s victory surprised even his election team, amassing 78 percent of the total vote to 22 percent for Matsikoudis, according to the latest numbers issued by the Hudson County Clerk’s office.

“We are just thankful for Jersey City and the team,” Fulop said in a message to the Jersey City Reporter. “We never imagined that this type of number was even in play as has never been done in Jersey City. As you know, city elections are tough, and especially non-partisan elections. You work hard and hope people agree, but it is hard to tell because critics always get the biggest platform you hear.”

Matsikoudis said something productive came from the campaign.

“We knew it would be tough fight against a heavily-financed incumbent, but one we are proud to have waged,” he said “We forced a needed dialogue on issues from affordable housing, to community policing, pedestrian safety, transportation, and support for the arts.”

Some clear winners; some headed for a runoff

While Fulop’s victory was clear, running mates on his ticket narrowly avoided run offs, in particular his three at-large candidates Council President Rolando Lavarro, Councilwoman and pastor Joyce Watterman, and Councilman Daniel Rivera. Slipping over the edge of the 25 percent of total votes cast to avoid a runoff, Lavarro carried in his two running mates, who were elected with 23 percent and 22 percent margins.

Sean Connors was the next highest vote getter with 7.24 percent, followed by Esmeralda Trinidad, Michael A. Winds, Esther Wintner, and Brian Lane.

Fulop-supported Jermaine Robinson won reelection with more than 55 percent of the total votes cast in Ward F, beating five challengers. Robinson was named to the council last year to fill the seat left vacant when Diane Coleman left to become Hudson County Register.

Fulop-foe Councilman Michael Yun also avoided a runoffby securing nearly 59 percent of the total votes cast in Ward D, despite three opponents, including Fulop-supported Moriah Kinberg, a well-respected community activist in The Heights.

In Ward A, four candidates ran to fill the seat vacated by outgoing Councilman Frank Gajewski.

Fulop-backed Denise Ridley won just short of 47 percent of the total vote cast in Ward A, but will have to face runner up Joe Conte, who had 22 percent. Conte, who ran as an independent, is the former chair of the Jersey City Democratic Party.

Perhaps the biggest surprise came in Ward B, where incumbent Chris Gadsden trailed Fulop-backed Mira Prinz-Arey by 10 percentage points, and will have to face off against her on Dec. 5. Both candidates will be seeking to secure the nearly 14 percent of the vote that went to Jessica Hellinger in the first round.

Hellinger was critical of the low turnout over all, noting that of 225,000 registered voters in the city, only 35,000 actually voted for mayor.

But she said she didn’t regret running.

“I got into the race late, but I’m not regretting it at all,” she said.

In Ward C, incumbent Richard Boggiano, who received 43 percent of the votes cast, will have to run against Fulop-backed John Hanussak who received just over 23 percent of the vote.

Both candidates will seek to attract voters who supported Rekha Nandwani, who received 23 percent of the vote, and A. Janet Chevres who received just over 6 percent.

In Ward E, Rebecca Symes managed to secure almost 40 percent of the vote. She will be opposed in the runoff by James Solomon, who received about 33 percent of the vote.

Ward E runoff seen as critical

The Ward E candidates are running to replace outgoing Councilwoman Candace Osborne, a staunch Fulop supporter.

Fulop did not endorse anyone the Nov. 7 election, but Osborne endorsed Symes. Solomon is seen as a political maverick, and would likely not line up with Fulop’s agenda on a number of fronts. The fight also would split progressive voters in Ward E.

Also, Ward E is symbolically important because Fulop, before moving to the Heights after becoming mayor, represented that ward as its councilman for eight years.

Ward E is also expected to get hit hard with increased taxes as a result of the just concluded re-evaluation of property, so having a strong support from the council person there would help the mayor control the expected backlash.

Fulop is very pleased with the victory

In a victory speech given at his gathering in Zeppelin Hall after the polls closed, Fulop said serving as mayor has been “the privilege of a lifetime,” and believed his reelection came as a result of the numerous successes of his first administration. Among these successes are the increase of the number of police, the expansion of development beyond the waterfront, and expansion of other programs.

He thanked his wife for “tolerating” him over the course of the election, as well as his campaign workers who worked on the street despite the rain and cold. He said they helped make sure that “we continued to move Jersey City forward.”

He said that his victory had the largest majority win of any mayor running after a four year term since 1949.

“You know what happens after four years, you get the naysayers,” he said.

He called Jersey City the best city in America.

“Everyday I’ve been thankful for the work and the time we’ve had to work together,” he said. “You make a lot of decisions as mayor and you hope that people recognize and appreciate it. But sometimes, you don’t know how people read that. But today, it was a resounding ‘yes, we are moving the city in the right direction’.”

School board elections split verdict

Although not directly aligned with municipal candidates, those running for the school board this year represented the two most contentious factions, with several independents thrown into the mix.

Five candidates ran for three-year terms on the nine-member board.

Incumbents Amy DeGise, Gerald Lyons, and Lorenzo Richardson ran for reelection as a team, and were endorsed by the Jersey City Education Association, the teachers’ union. Yousef Saleh and Matthew Schapiro, backed by Parents for Progress, ran against the incumbents.

Mussab Ali and David Miranda ran to fill the one year remaining on the term of John Reichart, who resigned in January.

DeGise led all voting, obtaining nearly 32 percent of the total votes cast. Schapiro came in second with almost 19 percent of the total vote, followed by Richardson with about 18.5 percent.

Ali won the one year term with about 51 percent of the vote.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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