Downtown Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop unseated incumbent Jerry Healy in a hard fought and at times nasty mayoral contest.
What many thought would be a close race ended up in a landslide victory for Fulop who pulled in more than 52 percent of the vote to Healy’s 38 percent. Jerry Walker received about 8 percent of the vote.
The size of the loss stunned Healy’s supporters, who said they felt confident going into the day.
In Healy, Fulop defeated a two-term incumbent, a difficult feat in any election, but one that was made all the more impressive by the breadth of Healy endorsements, including a nearly unprecedented nod from President Obama.
An 11th-hour gaffe from Healy in which he discussed an embarrassing episode from several years ago when he was found naked and asleep on his porch, offering a brand new excuse for the events, sent his campaign into damage mode last week.
Fulop was gracious in victory, thanking Healy for his service.
“You represent the grit and tenacity that make Jersey City special,” Fulop told his gathered supporters after Healy had conceded. “Thank you for believing in this great American experiment called democracy. Those of you who put your faith in us today, we will make you proud God bless Jersey City and thank you.”
The two men traded barbs and negative ads throughout the campaign with Healy threatening or filing several lawsuits, including one alleging collusion between an outside group and Fulop’s campaign. That suit was tossed by a judge Monday.
Fulop hit Healy hard on past corruption in the city, producing a commercial that claimed Healy was caught up in Operation Bid Rig, which sent his deputy mayor to jail. Healy disputed the ads, threatening to sue Fulop for defamation, but the councilman continued to run the ad and doubled down with a second television spot.
Between them, the two men raised and spent close to $2 million on the campaign, which most pundits predicted would be a close race.
Healy rode the Obama endorsement, pasting the city with signs reading Obama/Healy and touting it in campaign literature.
But over the past week, both the Jersey Journal and the Star Ledger endorsed Fulop, the Star Ledger in a scathing editorial calling Healy “damaged,” “ineffective, unethical and often downright embarrassing.”
Healy insiders dismissed the editorials as far less important than endorsements from the likes of Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several state elected officials.
The nine council seats up for grabs were far less definitive, with only Candice Osborne in Ward E scoring a decisive victory. Run-offs will be scheduled for the remaining five wards and for the three at-large seats.
Joyce Watterman, Daniel Rivera and Rolando Lavarro hold solid leads for the three at-large council seats, while, Khemraj Ramchal led all vote getters in Ward B. Diane Coleman held a slim lead in Ward F with 96 percent of the votes in.
Charles Epps topped vote getters in Ward A, Richard Boggiano leads in Ward C and Michael Yun was the top vote getter in Ward D.
Coleman, Lavarro, Watterman, Ramchal, Rivera, and Osborne all were part of “Team Fulop.”