IRVINGTON – The public personage of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has created sparks in a competitive mayoral race here that pits longtime incumbent Mayor Wayne Smith against School Board President Tony Vauss.
A Vauss mailer is circulating that lists Fulop as one of nearly a dozen elected officials who back the challenger.
But Smith says he confronted the Jersey City mayor who assured him he is not active in the local contest.
“My motto has always been to trust but verify,” Smith said. “Recently, Tony Vauss distributed a flyer picturing elected officials with the tagline ‘We Support Young New Leadership, We Support Tony Vauss for Mayor.’ One of those pictured was Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City, a progressive urban Mayor and a supporter of pro-family policies. It surprised and baffled me that a Mayor who shares my ideas would outwardly campaign against me.
“As faith would have it, I was the guest of Mayor Fulop last week at Jersey City’s Re-Entry Conference where he told me explicitly that he had absolutely not authorized the use of his image in any way for an endorsement. Mayor Fulop further stated he has not made any endorsements in Irvington’s race.”
Smith insisted the mailer brings Vauss’ credibility into question.
“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Mr. Vauss would mislead Irvington voters about endorsements given that his leadership as School Board President has, and continues, to mislead about the quality of education our children are receiving,” the mayor said.
Vauss said he met with Fulop and noted “It’s my understanding he’s backing me.”
Running with the support of longtime powerbroker L. Bilal Beasley, who had a falling out with Smith, Vauss has another mailer on the street targeting not only Smith, but former Council President John Sowell.
A third mayoral candidate in the contest, Sowell has stirred local comment about his work rate and seeming willingness to muscle himself into what many observers originally saw as a two-man contest between Smith and Vauss.
The Vauss mailer goes after the mayor and Sowell, identifying them as accomplices in a 17% city tax increase four years ago.
Vauss said he believes Sowell and Smith are running in league and is convinced that that Sowell is campaigning strategically to weaken Vauss and enhance the mayor’s chances to win re-election May 13th.
“They’re trying to divide the vote against me, but I am confident they are only dividing it against themselves,” the school board president said.