After council approval, Hoboken will vote on runoff elections in November


In the midst of a five-hour marathon meeting of the Hoboken City Council, the governing body approved a measure that will place a question on next year’s ballot allowing voters to decide whether or not to bring back runoff elections. 


“Listen, I want to explain to members of the public that that did not understand this when it was first voted on. It was placed on referendum, which, it’s good for 10 years … a lot of people went in there and voted yes thinking they were voting no,” said Pat Waiters, a perennial candidate for office that has often opposed the Mayor Dawn Zimmer administration.

Waiters added that many people, specifically the senior population, found the language of the November 2012 ballot question difficult to understand.

At that time, Mile Square City residents definitively decided to do away with runoff elections by a vote of 9,191 to 6,702.

Tony Soares, a former city councilman, said he disagrees with the notion that runoffs always come with the same result as the general election.

“I’ve heard comments where usually the runoff is exactly the same [as the previous election], but it’s not,” he began.

“I almost prevented Peter Cammarano from being the mayor of Hoboken when I came in third place in 2005, and then in the runoff, he won, because their were tons of deals cut and things like that. However, I do think 50 percent plus one is a great thing.”

Soares also noted that he prefer instant runoffs, but since that ultimately needs to be decided by the state legislature, he is okay with Hoboken voters deciding on bringing back runoff elections at the polls next year.

The former elected official was likely alluding to remarks from Mayor-elect Ravi Bhalla during his appearance on last week’s addition of Hudson County Review Live.

During the one-on-one interview, the incoming mayor said he was against bringing back runoffs because in the 40-plus year history of runoff elections in Hoboken, the candidate that finished in first place in the general election ended up winning again in the runoff.

The measure, sponsored by Councilmen Mike DeFusco and Ruben Ramos, passed by a vote of 7-2, with Bhalla and Councilman-at-Large James Doyle voting no.

While the council did not debate the measure, DeFusco sent out a statement this morning praising the decision of his colleagues.

“I thank my Council colleagues for approving this measure and recognizing the need to give our neighbors the choice to decide whether or not to bring back runoff elections,” said DeFusco.

“It is disappointing to see Mayor-elect Bhalla and Councilman Doyle vote to deny voters this opportunity to choose how our elections will be run, but it’s not surprising because the lack of runoffs always benefits establishment politicians. It’s this desire to preserve the status quo that stops young people from getting involved, and that’s why I believe reinstating runoff elections is essential to bringing new energy and new ideas to our political discourse.”

Bhalla scored a historic victory on November 7th, becoming the first Sikh mayor-elect in New Jersey.

However, critics have questioned the quality of the victory since he only secured 32.75 percent of the vote, according to tallies from the Hudson County Clerk’s Office, in a six-person race.

Supporters of Bhalla have quietly whispered that the ordinance being passed right around the holidays before two new council members are sworn in shows that opponents of the new mayor are sore losers who are targeting him as a form of political payback.

Ramos, who supported DeFusco’s mayoral candidacy, was also stung by the lack of runoffs in the recent past.

The 4th Ward councilman, a state Assemblyman in 2013, ran against Zimmer and lost by a margin of about 47 percent to 35 percent.

Tim Occhipinti, who then served in the 4th Ward, also ran for mayor that year and garnered roughly 17 percent of the vote.

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  1. Mr. Soares’s comments are really strange. Leaving aside the weird reference to him almost preventing Peter Cammarano from becoming Mayor in 2009 by losing a Council runoff to him in 2005, one of the strong arguments against run-offs is that in Hoboken it often has resulted in corrupt deal making for the support of the losing candidates. Mr. Soares claims that he lost in the 2005 council at large runoff precisely because of that kind of corruption. Yet he then proceeds to say bringing back the run-off (presumably together with those corrupt deals he refers to) would be a good idea. If run-offs facilitate corrupt deal making isn’t that a bad thing?

    As to run-offs rarely (if ever) changing the results of Hoboken Mayoral elections in the past – that’s an easily verifiable historical fact. It is not something open to honest disagreement.

    I didn’t watch the Council meeting but based on this story, it sounds like no one explained why the Council was rushing to do this immediately after the election when it has until August 2018 to put this on the November 2018 ballot.

    It also sounds like no one explained why this was being reconsidered just 5 years after the voters made a decision to eliminate run-offs. Does Mr. DeFusco feel we should schedule a referendum on this every five years just to make sure the voters haven’t changed their minds? Or should we just keep asking the voters until he gets the answer he wants and then stop?

    Finally, did Councilwoman Giattino and Councilman Cunningham, both of whom collected signatures advocating for the elimination of the run-off in 2012, explain why they had changed their minds?

    It seems to me these, as well as other questions, are questions the Council members ought to be answering. It’s certainly disappointing that instead of answering questions like these and having an intelligent informed and honest discussion, the Council plowed ahead without explanation at the last meeting of the year.

    • Merry Christmas Linda Shadow Lou
      Watching the meeting, it seemed to me that he was simply stating it’s not true what Bhalla bloggers and your minions are posting that the runoff would be in January or February of the next year.
      I’m sure he didn’t mean that he endorses deals like the ones Dawn and Stan made with Frank Raia and Andrew Amato to harvest 4th ward absentee ballots leading to her being forced to vacate her seat by a court and avoid innocent voters being called into court due to her shady deal with Raia and Amato.
      Associations like the ones Zimmer and Grossbard had with the likes of Carmelo Garcia, Hector Clavaria, Beth Mason, Frank “Pupie” Raia do great harm to the residents of Hoboken whether it’s during a runoff or not.
      There was no Runoff happening when Stan Grossbard, Bernie Kenny and Carmelo Garcia were caught on tape at a Hell’s Kitchen bar discussing politics and more.
      There was no runoff when emails were exchanged when Grossbard was giving opinion on how to terminate his lunch date.
      There was no runoff 4 years ago when rumors arose that Tim Occhipinti and Frank Raia ran that ticket to help Dawn beat Ramos and there was no runoff this year when a rumored deal was cut between Romano , Nason and Bhalla to only attack Giattinno and DeFusco.

      The old runoff deals where Dave Roberts gets a friend a 35,000 parking utility job is nothing compared to the pay to play windfall coming on January 3rd when Bhalla rewards all his contributors.

      This Christmas lets pray the insurance bills for the Hoboken Housing Authority don’t spike so high that the board will need to cut out other much needed repairs all because some sleazebags were talking political deals and personnel when there were no longer runoffs.

      Runoffs or no runoffs, there will always be shady operatives and puppet masters who are more interested in power and control than the people the elected are supposed to place first.

      • Father C. the problem with you regurgitating up bits and chunks of out of context, intentionally misleading, miscelanious political history is that by the time your done you have vomited on yourself and you are left standing in your own filth. Some people feel better after they vomit. Some people vomiting is a sign of even greater internal problems.

  2. This is the 2012 ballot question Ms. waiters claims was hard to understand:

    Shall the City of Hoboken abandon the holding of run-off elections as
    permitted by the “Uniform Nonpartisan Elections Law”
    (N.J.S.A. 40:45-5 et. seq.)?

  3. Wait, are you telling me voters will decide on whether or not we should have runoffs? The City Council will allow the public to decide next November and democracy in action is payback?

    So the Ravi insiders don’t think he can win a runoff. Well, maybe not but he’s not going to be around that long anyway.

    Hearing there’s going to be so many elected jobs opening up as President Trump has brilliantly designed a self-draining Swamp. They are fleeing for their lives before the revamped and cleaned up DOJ corrupted by Obama comes calling.

    Ravi will find another gig; he just want be able to take a shadow with him.
    Oy vey, the pissing and moaning from these whiners is never going to end.
    Everything is a conspiracy against poor Ravi who sprayed his opponents with all manner of smears.

    Poor Ravi, poor Shadow. Woe is them.

    • I’m waiting to hear your answers to my question. Instead you post the same old deflections. The runoff will lose again in November and along the way those who supported this will be confronted with questions like these they cannot answer. Thinking things through before you jump off a cliff is generally a wiser course. Unfortunately wisdom is in short supply these days. I guess high school math only takes one so far.

    • The real question is why are the Ward City Council members trying to change the rules to protect themselves and going against the will of the 9500 Hoboken voters to one binding election.

  4. Zimmer won both of her mayoral races with fewer than 50% and Bhalla won with fewer than 33%. Runoffs assure that the winner is supported by the majority of the voters. For the next 4 years we will have a mayor who 67% voted against. That just doesn’t seem right. Besides, I would have welcomed voting against DeFusco twice in one year!

    • Ravi and Donald have similar approval ratings in the low to mid 30’s
      The 30% Club- founding members are Ravi Bhalla and Donald Trump.

      Bhalla made history being the 1st mayor to win with the lowest percentage of votes Hoboken’s 160 year history.

  5. The Shadow just can’t stand that the Zimmer legacy will be erased with the first new HHA insurance bill, the contaminated soil disposal bills, the BASF clean up bill and the Washington St disaster is finally totaled and come due.
    Gov Murphy has yet to place Zimmer in any major role and she isn’t even chair of the environment team of his transition team. They give her a non-chairman seat on a “urban growth” committee. She certainly knows how to slow that down, just top paving roads…

    • Actually if you read the reporting in the MSM you would know that Mayor Zimmer was a transition committee Co-Chair.

      I don’t know about Mayor Zimmer’s legacy but Roman Brice’s legacy includes helping Ravi Bhalla to get elected. Folks are saying that his endorsement of Giattino helped Ravi more than Zimmer’s endorsement of Ravi so I guess Roman might really be as important as he always says he is.

  6. The people of Hoboken voted for the one election process for good reason.
    The Hoboken City Council mayoral losers ( DeFusco (Soares), Giattino & her backers Fisher, Cunningham) in the last election are pushing for runoffs because they fear the electorate and are hoping that they can win on name recognition alone in a smaller runoff. That fear is very real after their distasteful public display of vindictiveness after their recent failure to reach hearts and minds of voters last month.

    Speaking of vindictiveness I have very on respect for and discount any self serving political pontifications that an embittered Tony Soares continues to spew.

  7. The people of Hoboken voted for the one election process for good reason.
    The Hoboken City Council mayoral losers (DeFusco (Soares), Giattino & her backers Fisher, Cunningham) in the last election are pushing for runoffs because they fear the electorate and are hoping that they can win on name recognition alone in smaller runoffs to stay on the City Council. That fear is very real after their distasteful public displays of vindictiveness after their recent failure to reach the hearts and minds of he voters last month.

    Speaking of vindictiveness I have no respect for and discount any self serving political pontifications that an embittered Tony Soares continues to spew.

  8. I would rather have some voter fall-off in a runoff than have a mayor get elected by a minority of the voting public including some undetermined number who voted for him based on a pre-election news story and not because of his planes or because some number of people voted on identity politics and not articulated policies. I hate Trump too but he wasn’t on the ballot in Hoboken.

    Unfortunately, our new mayor is going into office in a very weak position with a team of just two on the city council. The people of Hoboken deserve a mayor that has a chance of being effective. I wish him luck, but his 33% vote, the waging a a partisan mayoral bid campaign and a paid blogger promoting further divide in the political scene are not a good sign.

    The people of Hoboken made a mistake 5 years ago. They didn’t know it at the time, but our newly partisan mayoral election turned on the spotlight. The partisanship injected into our non-partisan elections will fuel the reinstatement of a runoff because partisan elections have primaries followed by the election. Our November election will become our primary.

  9. Mayor Zimmer with one stroke of her pen put the petulant Council children in their place by vetoing their ordinance.

    Now instead of a sneaky last meeting of year hidden power play they will have to do it facing the voters (9500)in Hoboken who already said that they one election and why they are not doing this in self serving to stay on the tax payroll.

    What will Council President Giattino say ? Well we will just have to wait until Councilwoman Fisher tells her what to say.

  10. And here’s the breaking news in late January:

    The Hoboken City Council overwhelmingly approves a November referendum allowing voters to decide if they want to have runoffs again or not.

    The City Council voted once again 7-2 to give the Hoboken voter the choice.
    Mayor Dawn Zimmer in her last divisive and some say spiteful action insisted on making the City Council flex again to allow the public the right to choose runoffs.

    The January votes in successive council meetings are a blow to the new Hoboken mayor Ravi Bhalla who is visibly weakened lacking much support in the nine member council as he begins his term. Bhalla had trashed his opponents, smearing one who had been his friend, Councilwoman Jen Giattino. Now those chickens are coming home to roost.

    Bhalla was not immediately available for comment as was hosting a fundraiser in Asbury Park last night for his “Running for Congress Somewhere Committee.”

    • has-been blogger roman brice continues to search every news story for a opportunities to cry about the crushing defeat of the candidate whose chances he personally ruined. both giattino and cunningham were energetic signature gatherers to move to november winner take all elections. both recognized back then that the greatly reduced turn out in december run offs greatly favored vote buyers. they no longer see that as a problem. roman brice promised to stand by his policy of not asking pertinent questions about that or any other subject that took his focus off of crying about the crushing defeat of the candidate whose chances he personally ruined.