Although the Dec. 5 council runoff elections allowed Mayor Steven Fulop to retain his 6-3 voting majority on the City Council, the upset win by James Solomon over Rebecca Symes in Ward E gave Fulop’s opposition a symbolic victory.
Jersey City held runoff elections in Wards A, B, C and E, as the two top vote-getting candidates in the Nov. 7 election faced off to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 1.
Candidates supported by Fulop won in Ward A and B. Those seen as opponents or independents won in Ward C and E.
Fulop-backed Denise Ridley, with 1,639 votes, beat challenger Joe Conte who had 808 in Ward A.
Councilman Chris Gadsden with 986 votes was unseated by Fulop-supported Mira Prinz-Arey with 1,555 in Ward B.
Councilman Richard Boggiano with 1,675 votes beat Fulop-endorsed John Hanussak who had 1,104 votes in Ward C.
In a close race, Symes with 1,929 votes was beaten by Solomon with 2,178.
While Fulop did not endorse Symes, most of the members of the council associated with Fulop did, as well as some former opponents. Most importantly, Symes was endorsed by out-going Councilwoman Candice Osborne, a Fulop ally.
Solomon’s victory may be attributed to growing concerns about the impact of a citywide reevaluation of property as well the rapidly rising rents in the downtown and waterfront portions of Ward E.
Behind the scenes, those opposed to Fulop and Symes raised questions about Symes’ association with big landlords and local developers. These attacks appeared to have some effect on Symes. In the waning days of the campaign she lashed out at her opponents for their “unfair” portrayal of her as a front for real estate interests.
Going into the runoff, Symes was seen as a frontrunner since she had led a field of six candidates, and received 2,593 votes to Solomon’s 2,077 on Nov 7.
Although unsuccessful Ward E candidate Nicholas Grillo gathered 916 votes on Nov. 7 and later endorsed Symes, his voters appeared to have turned to Solomon instead.
Solomon was upbeat
In a statement issued after the results were known, Solomon sounded upbeat.
“I am honored to serve downtown Jersey City and I will continue to fight for every resident on City Council,” he said. “We could not have done this without our committed volunteers and supporters who have dedicated their lives towards creating a stronger Jersey City, knocking doors, making phone calls, and talking to their neighbors.”
Solomon thanked Symes for running “a thoughtful campaign.”
“As a member of City Council, I will work every day to secure intelligent development, better schools, excellent infrastructure, and a government that works for all residents, so Jersey City remains a city for everyone. This is a pivotal moment for our city, and I’m looking forward to getting to work.”
Fulop satisfied with results
During the celebration at Zeppelin Hall, Fulop said he was satisfied with the results.
“I’m looking forward to working with those that ran with us and those than ran against us,” he said.
Remarkably, Ridley will be the first African-American to serve as a council person from Ward A, which has a large African-American population.
“We worked hard,” Ridley said. “From day one, we worked hard and worked all day every day.”
Boggiano in a statement said that Ward C showed they wanted a strong independent candidate.
“I look forward to working with the mayor and plan to keep fighting for affordability, clean government and basic quality-of-life improvements throughout the city,” he said.
Fulop and the council members will be sworn in at a City Hall ceremony at 5 p.m. on Jan. 1.
He plaed out the estimated $2.5 million that his campaign raised.
“We only had $20,000 in the bank when we started this thing earlier this year,” he said.
Much of the work he anticipates for his second term will be completing projects his administration started in his first term.
“We want to continue to stabilize taxes and develop ways to keep our streets safe,” he said. “We have a lot of big projects coming, such as high tech city, the new museum, and development on Journal Square and other places away from the waterfront.”
He said projected changes will come to places like Exchange Place, where a new special improvement district is expected to generate more business and cultural activity.
Fulop said new police stations, parking garage, and the new city hall annex are all in the works.
“We just need to finish what we started,” Fulop said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.