William B. Sampson IV, 32, made headlines earlier this year when Bayonne Mayor James Davis announced he preferred him as the new candidate for the NJ General Assembly seat for the 31st Legislative District over incumbent Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti. It’s still not clear why he booted Chiaravalloti off “the line,” but Davis prevailed, and the Hudson County Democratic Organization backed Sampson.
Despite the political drama preceding his ascension, Sampson is now running unopposed in the June 8 primary since Chiaravalloti dropped out. In the heavily Democratic 31st Legislative District encompassing Bayonne and southern parts of Jersey City, where a Republican has never been elected since the district’s creation in 1973, Sampson is expected to win the general election.
Sampson, a crane operator at Global Container Terminals and member of the International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1588, spoke with the Bayonne Community News by phone from the cockpit of his crane. He said he is new to politics but ready to make a change.
Bayonne born and raised
Growing up in the city, Sampson described it as a fun, safe city with a lot of families who know each other.
“I was always playing basketball here, having aspirations to go further,” Sampson said. “Bayonne for me has always been tightknit family. For me, and my beginnings, it has always been an athletic career that I’ve pursued here. It’s a sports town: a lot of athletes have come out of Bayonne.”
Sampson went to Washington Community School before attending Bayonne High School, where he helped the basketball team win its first league title in over 30 years in 2005. He graduated in 2007 with a full scholarship to Clark Atlanta University, an Historically Black University (HBCU). After two years at Clark, Sampson returned to New Jersey, attending New Jersey City University (NJCU).
While Sampson was a student athlete at NJCU, he wanted to enter the workforce. First he worked with high-rise luxury buildings, thanks to an opportunity from his uncle. After a few years, Sampson found something better to support himself and his family: working as a longshoreman.
He started working at Ports America in 2013, the same year he joined the International Longshoreman’s Association Local 1588. He has since been promoted and has worked at Global Container Terminals in Bayonne since 2018. He serves as the political liaison for the local branch of the union and City Hall.
Sampson is also vice president of the Hudson County chapter of the Asa Philip Randolph Institute, an organization of Black union workers who advocate for racial justice. Locally, the organization focuses on voter registration and other outreach.
New but not an outsider
Sampson called himself a “great navigator,” which is how he ended up running for assembly. While new to the political scene, Sampson does not see himself as an outsider. He identifies as an insider with “hardworking, everyday” people.
According to Sampson, while some politicians are too out of touch with “everyday” people, he is still very much a “hardworking, everyday” man. He includes Davis in that category, whom he praised for Bayonne’s recent growth and success.
Sampson first met Davis when he was running for mayor in 2014. He said Davis had made a good impression with the longshoreman’s union, and the relationship grew from there. Since then, there has been a mutually supportive relationship between the city and the union. Being the political liaison, Sampson has had frequent positive interactions with Davis and City Hall on behalf of the union.
Sampson has received some flak for his voting record, after it was discovered that he did not vote in some recent elections for his assembly seat and for mayor in 2014 when Davis was first elected. Sampson argues he has become more politically conscious over time, hoping to appeal to new voters who have become more politically active in recent years.
A ‘workaholic’ for constituents
A self-proclaimed “workaholic,” Sampson said that his work ethic resonates with the newer generation, noting that he was at work in his crane during the interview with BCN. He said he wants to work just as hard for his future constituents.
“It’s your voice, and your voice should always be heard,” Sampson said. “I’ll never be a guy that acts like he knows everything because I don’t. I’m a great listener, and I want to listen to my constituents that I will represent in the 31st. We can go from there and build our relationship based on their concerns.”
If elected, Sampson said his main priority will be to listen to the concerns of his constituents: “I will represent Bayonne and Jersey City. I will look at everything, the landscape of our needs here.”
While Sampson did not get into specifics in terms of legislative priorities, he said one goal would be to maintain Bayonne Medical Center as an acute-care hospital.
“We need a comprehensive and affordable hospital for everybody,” Sampson said. “We’re building up this city, and we’re giving it a new facelift. From my standpoint, we need a great new hospital.”
If elected, Sampson will be the first Black legislator from Bayonne in the state assembly.
“That means a lot to me and to my family,” Sampson said. “There’s many shoulders that I stand on, such as my grandparents. That means everything because I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the people that have fought for me, the people that have marched, the people that have protested everything leading up to this point.”
Sampson would also be one of the youngest members. He said these were milestones, but that “they will never be as important as the people that I represent right here in Bayonne.“
Sampson said Bayonne is rapidly changing, chalking that up in part to Davis’s leadership.
“There’s never been more diversity,” Sampson said. “Look at all the storefronts on Broadway owned by minorities. Bayonne is evolving, and we have to continuously set it in the right direction.”
Sampson concluded he wouldn’t be in this position without his faith, and reiterated his desire to serve his future constituents.
“People can say I’m a newbie. They can say I’m a rookie,” Sampson said. “The way I look at it is, I want to be rookie of the year. I want to make an impact.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.