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.