If Jerramiah Healy tops the 50% mark today, he will become the first Mayor of Jersey City to win three elections without a runoff since the legendary Frank Hague.
Healy won a 2004 special election 28%-24% over Assemblyman Louis Manzo, with Acting Mayor L. Harvey Smith running a strong third with 22%. When he ran for re-election in 2005, he won 75% of the vote against former City Councilwoman Melissa Holloway.
Runoffs have been common in Jersey City elections in recent years. In 2001, former U.S. Marshal Glenn Cunningham led City Council President (now Hudson County Executive) Thomas DeGise 38%-24% in the May election, and won the runoff 53%-47%. Bret Schundler elected in a nineteen-candidate 1992 special election, won re-election with 68% in 1993. But in 1997, he fell two votes short of winning 50% and after a court battle, beat Healy 59%-41% in the runoff.
When Dr. Paul Jordan, a reformer who toppled the Jersey City Democratic machine when he won a 1971 special election for Mayor, ran for Governor six years later, City Clerk Thomas F.X. Smith beat Jordan’s handpicked successor. Smith won 50% against William Macchi, the Jersey City Director of Human Resources. That effectively ended Jordan’s gubernatorial campaign and caused the defeat of Jordan allies in the State Senate (Walter Sheil ousted two-term State Sen. James Dugan, the Democratic State Chairman) and Assembly in the primary election a few weeks later. Smith served one-term and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1981.
In 1981, Sheil was the top vote getter in the May mayoral election, but fell short of winning 50%. He led City Councilman Gerald McCann, 18,960 to 16,552, with City Councilman Anthony Cucci running third with 15,487 votes. Before Sheil could get to the runoff, he first had to defend his State Senate seat. Sheil wound up losing the Democratic State Senate primary to McCann-backed lawyer Edward O’Connor. McCann beat Sheil in the runoff by a 58%-42% margin.
Four years later, Cucci challenged McCann for Mayor and won 49.6% of the vote. In the runoff, He beat the incumbent 57%-43%.
In 1989, McCann, allegedly from his home in Rutherford, mounted a political comeback. In the May election, he led Cunningham by 4,157 votes, 13,498 to 9,341. Smith finished third with 6,606 votes and Cucci, the incumbent, won 6,469 votes in his fourth place showing.