As more challengers appear, Jersey City municipal races are starting to get crowded


As the weather warms in Jersey City, so do its municipal races.

A handful of new city council candidates, as well as the first official mayoral candidate of the campaign season, have all filed documents to run for office, adding to the ever-growing field of city candidates.

Last month Lewis Spears, the founder of the nonprofit Kismet of Kings mentoring program, applied to challenge Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, the first candidate to officially take that step.

In an interview, Spears said he hopes to address “a lot of the issues and concerns that exist in our communities, particularly black and brown communities,” and has identified affordable housing as a primary concern.

“We had the opportunity to pass a strong (inclusionary zoning ordinance) and we did not,” he said, referring to the inclusionary zoning ordinance of October 2020 city. The order drew criticism – and legal action – from people who said it contained broad loopholes that would allow developers to bend the rules.

“We missed the ball with that,” Spears said.

He admitted that entering the race now – six months before the election and a full 15 months after his opponent officially launched his candidacy for re-election – is not “an ideal situation”, but he said he was motivated by “righteous anger. “

“There are so many factors – including (Fulop) going unopposed – that I think (make) so important to become active in the democratic process,” Spears said, noting that “there isn’t only one way to skin a cat “.

Its campaign is putting the finishing touches on its platform, Spears said, and plans to hold its first fundraiser on July 8 at The Factory restaurant.

Phil Swibinski, Fulop’s campaign spokesperson, cited Fulop’s affordable housing record, citing Bayfront’s affordable housing development, but did not directly address Spears’ campaign.

“It was always clear that the mayor was not going to be unopposed, that he was going to have opposition in the elections,” Swibinski said. “Really, he just cares about continuing to move the city forward and communicating to residents about his case. “

Fulop, who has roughly $ 1.7 million between personal and shared campaign accounts, “isn’t really too concerned about anything else at this point,” Swibinski said.

From right to left: Vernon Richardson, June Jones and Pedro Figueroa.

The races down the ballot are also increasingly crowded, with a total of 20 incumbents and candidates vying for city council seats.

Earlier this week, June Jones, president of the Morris Canal Redevelopment Area Community Development Corporation, became the latest candidate to run for a seat on Jersey City‘s general council.

Jones criticized several measures taken by the Fulop administration as being undemocratic, including pressure from the mayor to install school board members by mayoral appointment and adding a solid waste tax to water bills, which ‘she described as “scandalous”.

“I would like to be someone who represents the voice of the people,” Jones said. “And (if) people tell you, 90% of people tell you they don’t want something – I mean, as a representative of the people, I should listen to this.”

Meanwhile, in Ward A, Pedro Figueroa, director of operations for a private security firm and a member of the city’s public safety review board, filed an application to challenge incumbent Denise Ridley for the seat. of the district council A.

The Ward A resident, who lives near Triangle Park in Greenville, said he had first-hand experience with gun violence in the city and plans to make the issue a central part of his campaign.

“A few years ago my vehicle was shot down,” he said. “My neighbor’s house was shot twice. So we absolutely want to focus on gun violence and patrol this area, make sure that this area is safe, that people feel safe. “

Vernon Richardson, former assistant to late city councilor Michael Yun and currently assistant to Fulop, is running for council seat in Ward F.

Richardson could not be reached for comment, and campaign materials were not immediately available through the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, or ELEC. But political positions on Richardson’s website call on the city to build more affordable housing and implement a more inclusive zoning ordinance. He also plans to charge homeowners for unused commercial space and work with law enforcement to “develop a personalized safety plan for each community by leveraging the data and voices of community members.”

Richardson is in the potentially delicate position of challenging Jermaine Robinson, the candidate backed by his boss.

“Mayor Fulop respects Vernon Richardson and his right to stand for election,” Swibinski said. “But he unequivocally supports City Councilor Jermaine Robinson 100% and will do everything possible to help him get re-elected.”

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