Candidates declaring their intent to run for office well in advance has become a common trend in American politics, and Jersey City’s mayoral conflict is no exception. With incumbent Mayor Steven Fulop announcing early on that he will not seek reelection, a power vacuum has emerged, prompting a surge of aspiring leaders vying for public attention. This phenomenon, though happening earlier than in the past, is not entirely new. History has witnessed similar situations in previous elections, resulting in political realignments and intense competition for control.
One notable example was the mayoral election in the early 1970s, when Paul Jordan was elected amidst a scandal. Another instance occurred in the early 1980s when Thomas Smith ran for governor, leaving a vacancy at the top and eventually leading to the election of Gerry McCann as mayor. This series of events sparked deep divisions within the Democratic ranks, culminating in a fierce battle between Bob Janiszewski and McCann for control of the party. Ultimately, Janiszewski emerged victorious, thanks in part to questionable charges brought against McCann at a strategically opportune moment.
With each transition of power and vacancy in the mayoral seat, key figures like Lou Manzo, Bill O’Dea, Tom DeGise, and Glenn Cunningham had to navigate their loyalties within and outside the Democratic Party. The cycle continued as Mayor Bret Schindler followed the pattern set by Tom Smith, abandoning his seat in a failed bid for governor and igniting yet another power struggle between DeGise and Cunningham.
The forthcoming election presents a similar dilemma for political figures with ties to previous conflicts in Jersey City. At present, former Gov. Jim McGreevey and O’Dea have declared their candidacies, with more contenders expected to join the race. Influential Democratic leaders such as Craig Guy, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, and state Senator Brian Stack have already endorsed McGreevey, while O’Dea has garnered support from figures like Lou Manzo and County Clerk Junior Maldonado.
The dynamics of this election also encompass divisions within the African American community. Council President Joyce Watterman is anticipated to announce her mayoral candidacy, potentially creating a major split in support. Some in the community appreciate McGreevey’s past contributions, while others prefer an African American mayor. Additionally, Ward E Councilman James Solomon may enter the race, hoping to mobilize the progressive movement in Jersey City.
Ultimately, the battle for the mayoral seat in Jersey City will hinge on the candidates’ political bases. Solomon will draw support from the progressive factions he represents, whereas O’Dea will rely on his extensive network built over three decades. McGreevey is likely to bring familiar faces associated with Craig Guy into his campaign. The composition of the council tickets chosen by each candidate will play a crucial role in securing overall control of the city.
Regardless of the choices made by rank and file political supporters, bitterness is bound to arise during this political civil war. As history has taught us, such conflicts often leave a lasting impact on the local political landscape.