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Davis endorses ‘Voices for Progress’ slate in Bayonne school board election

Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, November 8

The Mayor of Bayonne has backed a side in the upcoming November school board election. From left to right: Gina Irizarry, Saverio “Sam” Maggio, Mayor James Davis, Ali Hassan, and Angelique Jackson-Belle.

Mayor James Davis has endorsed the “Voices for Progress” slate in the upcoming Bayonne Board of Education election on Tuesday, November 8.

Three seats on the board are available for a term of three years each, as the terms of Trustees Lisa Burke, Jan Patrick Egan, and Denis Wilbeck are expiring and they are not running for re-election. A fourth seat up for grabs for a term of one year belongs to Trustee Hector Gonzalez, who is running for re-election to finish out the term expiring in 2023 belonging to former Trustee Dave “Doc” Watson, who Gonzalez was appointed to replace in January of this year following Watson’s resignation.

Davis made his endorsement of the “Voices for Progress” ticket via social media on Wednesday, September 21. The slate consists of four candidates who are not current board members, including Gina Irizarry, Angelique Jackson Belle, Saverio “Sam” Maggio, and Ali Hassan.

“It is my great pleasure to announce that I am endorsing the Voices for Progress candidates in this November’s election for Bayonne Board of Education trustees,” Davis said. “The candidates I am backing for full terms are Gina Irizarry, Angelique Jackson Belle, and Saverio (Sam) Maggio. I am also supporting Ali Hassan to complete an unexpired term.”

‘Integrity, responsibility, and practicality’

According to Davis, if elected to the school board, the “Voices for Progress” candidates will focus on Bayonne children. 

“They will offer the community integrity, responsibility, and practicality in office,” Davis said. “The candidates also bring a great variety of professional experiences to the Board of Education.”

Davis touted that Irizarry is a teacher at P.S. 17 in Jersey City; Jackson Belle is a businesswoman and community activist, as well as the President of the Board of Directors of the Bayonne Youth Center; Maggio is a retired Bayonne public school teacher; and Hassan is employed in the financial sector. 

“Together, they will work hard for our taxpayers, students, parents, and teachers,” Davis said. “In the 2022 school board election, I am very proud to endorse the outstanding Voices for Progress candidates for the Bayonne Board of Education. With their help, our children will move forward to a better future.”

Davis again weighs in on school board election

The backing of the “Voices for Progress” ticket marks the first endorsement that Davis has given in two school board election cycles. Previously, Davis had regularly endorsed the “Together We Can” slate from 2018 to 2020, along with the entire City Council.

However, that was not the case in 2021, when Trustees Jodi Casais, Pamela Sclafane, and Melissa Godesky-Rodriguez were running for re-election. Instead, that “Together We Can” ticket got support from then-City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski and former state Assemblyman for the 31st Legislative District Nicholas Chiaravalloti.

Casais and Board President Maria Valado would later go on to run on a ticket with mayoral candidate Ashe-Nadrowski in the May 2022 municipal election. This suggests that a political divide was likely the reason Davis and the council, most of whom were running with him except for Ashe-Nadrowski and outgoing Second Ward City Councilman Sal Gullace, withheld their endorsements.

Political proxy war playing out in school board election?

New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) records show that the “Together We Can” 2021 account would go on to support Ashe-Nadrowski’s 2022 mayoral campaign to the tune of approximately $1,400. Casais and previous “Together We Can” candidate and current Board Vice President Christopher Munoz also donated funds to Ashe-Nadrowski, although Sclafane also donated to Davis.

Regardless, the political waters for the slate and who runs on it appear to have been muddied by Davis. This is evident in him endorsing the new “Voices for Progress” slate in 2022 after the now-obvious split with “Together We Can” in 2021.

Facing off against the “Voices for Progress” slate for the four seats up for grabs on the board, the 2022 “Together We Can” ticket includes Trustee Gonzalez, former Trustee and former City Councilwoman Mary Jane Desmond, William Young, and Miriam Bechay. In addition, Jahnbaz Almas is the only candidate running by himself on the “Education is Freedom” ticket for a three-year term.

Fundraisers and other events planned as November approaches

Following his endorsement, Davis is already promoting a cocktail fundraiser for the slate. The fundraiser is set for Thursday, October 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Villa Maria at 417 Broadway.

While she hasn’t made a formal endorsement, it appears Ashe-Nadrowski is again throwing her support behind the “Together We Can” ticket and also pushing their events. Earlier in September, Ashe-Nadrowski promoted a meet and greet with the “Together We Can” team at Bake N Brew on Thursday, September 22, from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Together We Can” has swept the past two Board of Education elections, even without Davis and the council’s endorsement in 2021. However, this election will be a test to see if the slate keeps up its streak unabated or if residents opt for the challengers as proxy political battles continue to play out.

Fore more information on who’s running ahead of November, read past reporting by the Bayonne Community News at: hudsonreporter.com/2022/07/26/nine-candidates-seek-four-seats-on-bayonne-board-of-education.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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