Countdown to November 6

Bayonne goes to polls to decide BBOED and U.S. Congress

Nineteen people are running for Board of Ed slots.
Nineteen people are running for Board of Ed slots.

The November 6 midterm elections are fast approaching as Bayonne residents will decide four trustee seats for the nine-member Bayonne Board of Education in addition to two federal elections, for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

At the BBOED, 19 candidates are running; 14 are competing for three, three-year terms, and five are competing for a one-year term.

The BBOED became an elected board in 2014 after 76 percent of Bayonne voters decided in favor of a referendum that ended the longstanding system of mayor-appointed trustees. Since then, trustees have overseen a growing number of students, security scares, expanded pre-k, rising property tax rates, and a four-year teacher’s contract. One of the board’s greatest tasks will be to decide the successor to Interim Superintendent Michael A. Wanko, whose contract expires next year.

Readers are encouraged to read Letters to the Editor, where BBOED candidates have written to lay out their platforms. Candidates can also be found on social media platforms.

Three-year terms

Incumbent trustees, Joseph Broderick, Ava Finnerty, and Charles Ryan are running for three-year terms on the ticket “Accountability, Experience, Integrity.” Their former colleague on the board, Trustee Mary Desmond, is also vying for a three-year term. She stepped down from her seat in May to allow a cousin the oportunity to become a teacher without conflict of interest.

Sharma Montgomery, an Air Force veteran who lost the last BBOED election by a narrow margin, is running again for a three-year term.

Leo Smith, who retired from the BBOED after 44 years, including his last eight as business administrator, is running for a three-year term. He is the brother of former Mayor Mark Smith.

BBOED election newcomers Edith Ferrell, Jodi Casais, Jan Patrick Egan, and Alicia Losonczy, president of the Henry Harris Community School Parent Teacher Organization, are running under the ticket, “Together We Can.” Their group was endorsed by Mayor James Davis in early October.

Melissa-Godesky Rodriguez is another newcomer. With young kids in the district, she became involved through a parent teacher organization.

“Make Bayonne Great Again,” the banner under which current Trustee Michael Alonso won a seat in the 2016 election, is on the ballot again, with Charles Shepard, Evelyn Sabol Benyo, and Lauren Alonso, all running for three-year terms. The elections are nonpartisan.

John R. Cupo, who has run for BBOED and city council in the past, and currently sits on the Housing Authority Board, is also running for a three-year term under the banner, “Drain the Swamp.”

Trustees have overseen a growing number of students, security scares, expanded pre-k, rising property tax rates, and a four-year teacher’s contract.


One-year terms

David Solari, Michael Mulcahy, Hector Gonzalez, former BBOED candidate Gina Irizarry, and current Trustee Mikel Lawandy are vying for a one-year term. Mikel Lawandy is also running under the incumbent group’s banner, “Accountability, Experience, Integrity.” Lawandy was appointed by the current trustees to the board after the resignation of Mary Jane Desmond in May. Lawandy was appointed as a trustee in 2014. This would be his first electoral win after losing a close re-election effort in 2017.

Mulcahy is a former commissioner on the Bayonne Construction Board of Appeals and treasurer for the mayoral campaign of his childhood friend, Jason O’Donnell.

Irizarry, an English teacher and former BBOED candidate, is running under the banner “Committed, Caring, Consistent.”

Federal elections

BBOED elections don’t normally drive large voter turnout. This time around, though, the number of votes cast in the BBOED election may get a boost from high voter enthusiasm across the country for the midterm elections.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed significantly more interest in turning out to vote in this year’s midterms than four years ago. “Enthusiasm is up across almost all demographic groups, but the increases are greater among younger adults, nonwhite voters and those who say they favor Democrats for the House,” the Washington Post reported.

Bayonne voters are split into two congressional districts, the 10th and the 8th, held by Democrats Donald Payne Jr., and Albio Sires, respectively. Neither incumbents are in competitive races for their seats.

That’s not the case for the U.S. Senate race, where Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez is facing Republican challenger and pharmaceutical executive, Bob Hugin. Multiple polls showed the race tightening in the weeks leading up to November.

Former Bayonne mayors Richard Rutkowski and Joe Doria, both Democrats, picked sides as Rutkowski first endorsed Hugin on October 10, followed that afternoon by a Menendez endorsement from Doria.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Rory Pasquariello can be reached at