Prospective mayoral candidate Bret Schundler’s conservative record was raised last night in one of the first attacks of the developing Jersey City mayoral race.
At a rally touting the establishment of a task force to fight crime against Jersey City’s LGBT community last night, Walt Boraczek, founder of the Hudson Diversity Action Council and an ally of Mayor Jerramiah Healy, ripped into Schundler’s record on gay rights, both as mayor and as a gubernatorial candidate, calling him “homophobic.”
Schundler, who was mayor from 1992 until 2001, is considering running for mayor again. The city holds non-partisan elections, and Schundler was initially narrowly elected in a crowded field of candidates. He went on to form alliances with key Democrats on the council to hold the seat. Last night’s rally was a clear indication that Schundler’s rivals will use his conservative record against him in this Democrat dominated city, should he choose to run again.
Before introducing Healy to speak at the rally, Boraczek stressed the importance of having an administration in City Hall that is friendly to gay causes. And although he didn’t live in Jersey City in 2001, Boraczek said that the gay community had to fight Schundler to hold its first Pride Festival (although Borazczek did not live in Jersey City at the time).
“The first Jersey City Pride festival was actually a fight with City Hall,” Boraczek told the two dozen member crowd. “There was a mayor in office named Bret Schundler who was actually one of the most homophobic mayors we’ve seen in recent history in Jersey City, who flat out denied the festival. Denied permits, denied everything.”
Schundler ran to the right of most other Republicans in his two gubernatorial bids in 2001 and 2005.
“This man then went on to run (for governor) opposing same sex marriage, and said to me personally that he believed same sex couples were unfit to raise children. This is the kind of homophobia we must guard against, and if you believe it or not this guy thinks he wants to run for mayor again,” said Boraczek, who then led attendees in a chant of “Hell no!”
The rally was also attended by Jersey City Councilman Steve Lipski.
Other prospective mayoral candidates include State Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham, Ward E Councilman Steve Fulop, former Assemblyman Lou Manzo and current Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith.
Schundler responded today that he did not recall fighting with gay advocacy groups over the Pride Festival.
“The only thing I can possibly imagine my Administration turning him down for is making the festival part of the city’s ethnic festival series,” said Schundler, who started a series of ethnic festivals. The Gay Pride festival would not have been included, he said, beacuse it didn’t fit the cateogry. He also turned down a church’s request to be part.
Moreover, Schundler refuted Boraczek’s claims that he told him that same sex couples were unfit to be parents. The two spoke about the issue at Grace Van Vorst Church, where Schundler served on the governing board.
“I said that social science research has consistently found that the interests of children are generally best-served when they are raised by their father and mother, and that the best way to support fathers and mothers staying together is giving their marriage a unique social status. (The Marriage Problem, a book by Harvard Professor James Q. Wilson, provides an excellent survey of this extensive research). That said, I support the right of gays and lesbians to adopt children, and never said that gay men and women are “unfit” to be parents. “