TRENTON – The capital city’s former public works director declared victory in the Trenton mayoral runoff election Tuesday night amid a crowd of supporters and well-wishers.
Eric Jackson, who ran an unsuccessful bid for mayor four years ago, clinched the runoff election against challenger Paul Perez, a consultant and Army veteran who scored a spot in the city’s runoff after securing 21 percent of the votes (or 2,134 votes) during last month’s election.
However, it was Jackson who was elected to serve Tuesday night as the city’s next mayor after garnering 30 percent (or 3,020 votes) during May’s mayoral election. He defeated Perez in the runoff by more than 1,000 votes, according to Jackson campaign official.
Jackson won the runoff with 5,569 votes to Perez’s 4,410 votes, according to the official.
“Thank you Trenton!” Jackson declared. “Together, we can make a difference!”
Jackson is the city’s first elected executive since disgraced former Mayor Tony Mack was found guilty on felony convictions by a jury.
“We started out 18 months ago on this journey on round two. … This is our time to turn the city into a new direction,” Jackson said. “Tonight is a celebration, not because we won an election but because we’re ready to turn the page on a new chapter.”
Supporters began filtering into his victory party at 8 p.m., and in less than an hour the hall was filled with well-wishers, including Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) and other state lawmakers.
Jackson held his victory rally inside the Masonic Temple, located in the shadows of New Jersey’s Statehouse.
“I thank each and every one of you in this room,” Jackson said. “Thank you from the very depths of my heart.”
By 9 p.m., it was clear from unofficial election results that Jackson defeated his opponent. However, the results weren’t announced inside victory headquarters until about 20 minutes later.
The crowd erupted in cheers.
“We did it, together!” a supporter declared before welcoming Jackson to the stage, where the incoming mayor stood flanked by Trenton youth and other supporters.
Earlier, Perez was scheduled to tour a Trenton neighborhood located a few blocks from the building around the city’s Battle Monument.
“This election is about character – not race,” said Perez in a statement released earlier in the day.
Perez, who garnered the support in the runoff of former mayoral hopefuls Kathy McBride and Jim Golden, would have been Trenton’s (which is 52 percent African American and 33 percent Latino) first Latino mayor.
Jackson’s campaign received the support of many establish city officials, as well as Statehouse leadership including Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
“A Jackson victory is great for Trenton and for a new vision,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15), who recently won a Democratic primary to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) in Congress.
“It will be accountable government and with honest leadership,” she said.
Jackson is a Trenton native whose campaign had the support of former Mayor Douglas Palmer, who held the office for 20 years. Jackson raised more than $200,000 for his campaign, according to reports filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission