John R. Cupo has thrown his hat in the ring for this year’s Bayonne City Council election, slated for Nov. 5. He’s running for First Ward Councilman.
Cupo is a lifelong Bayonne resident, a current commissioner on the Bayonne Housing Authority, and recently retired as a real estate broker with more than 40 years’ experience. He’s no newcomer to the electoral stage.
Cupo first ran for elected office in 2009, for a Councilman At Large seat. In 2010, He ran for First Ward Councilman. He was also on the ballot in the 2015, 2016, and 2017 school board elections, but came up short in all three of those bids.
Cupo said that in every election, his supporters have been First Ward residents. His campaign slogan is “Cupo Core Voters.”
Beating the pavement
Recently, Cupo sat down with the Bayonne Community News. Two months ahead of Election Day, he’s confident that the “Cupo Core” will turn out. In the next few weeks, he plans to meet as many undecided voters as possible.
“I’ve always been a public person,” Cupo said. “How much more public does it get than real estate?” He believes his financial and management experience in real estate could translate to government.
As of September, he’d gone door to door collecting more than 2,000 petition signatures to land a spot on the ballot. He spoke with 6,000 residents. He plans to have his campaign headquarters up and running soon. His goal is to meet with every constituent in the ward at least two or three times.
Cupo said that he thinks he would mesh well with Mayor Jimmy Davis and the sitting council members. That said, he’s challenging Davis-endorsed incumbent Councilman Neil Carroll III, who has the support of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. Carroll is 30. Cupo is 70.
“I supported Jimmy Davis with my endorsement when he first ran, and I’m a Davis supporter from the word ‘go,’” Cupo says.
Cupo is a self-described “stickler” for roadway improvements, pointing to a number of issues in the First Ward he’d like to tackle. He mentioned straightening out signs, filling in potholes, installing speed bumps, and ensuring that every road has properly painted crosswalks and medians.
He promised to vote against any and all long-term tax abatements for real estate developers. “Thirty, 25, 20 years? You’re not getting that from me. I’ve been on both sides,” he said, referencing his years as a real estate executive, and his service on Jersey City’s Board of Adjustment.
Private and public sectors
“I’m already in touch with senior citizens through the housing authority,” Cupo said. “Senior citizens are my realm. I was a commissioner on the Board of Adjustment in Jersey City for eight years, so I know about how development works.”
He said the most common request among residents is for a stronger police presence in the First Ward. He said that he’d push for officers to take turns patrolling different neighborhoods in the ward, and would advocate for additional hires if that doesn’t work.
“One of the most common problems people mentioned to me are car break-ins,” Cupo said.
He would also advocate for more affordable housing.
Cupo said that, with the gift of retirement, he’d be able to work full-time in the position. He told the Bayonne Community News he’d establish a 24-hour hotline for residents, a well as other avenues for community outreach, including texting, social media, and get-togethers.
Eyes on the prize
Cupo said that he feels good about the feedback he’s received from petition signers, but is hesitant to take anything for granted.
“I want to believe in everyone who signed a petition, but I can’t rest on my laurels,” Cupo said. “I want to get the public’s trust, because I can do the job. I’m gonna be 70, but I’m really 40. I compliment [Former First Ward Councilman] Tommy Cotter for all of his work, and realize I have big shoes to fill. I want to capitalize on how he handled the First Ward and got things done, but I want to do it better.”
Cupo said he plans to focus on the nuts-and-bolts issues that are important to voters.
“It’s the everyday stuff that people care about,” Cupo said. “Streets, development, schools, senior services, safety, parks, and so on.”