Hoboken 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco has just announced in an email blast that he won’t be seeking a third term in the non-partisan November 7th council races.
“With my current term nearing its end, I’ve had a lot to think about: what’s best for the City and what’s best for me, personally and professionally. After months of consideration and reflection, I have come to terms with the fact that my current schedule can no longer support both endeavors full-time, without one impacting the other,” DeFusco wrote.
“So today, I’m announcing I will not be seeking re-election this November. This decision was not an easy one, and it’s one I’ve struggled with for some time. Though it is with a heavy heart that I close this chapter, I feel confident in saying we’ve brought ‘New Energy and New Ideas’ to Hoboken, together.”
DeFusco unseated 21-year incumbent Theresa Castellano in 2015 when he ran on a ticket backed by then-Mayor Dawn Zimmer after serving on the zoning board of adjustment. He is the first openly gay councilman to serve in the Mile Square City.
Despite being new on the council, he ran a spirited campaign for mayor in 2017, losing to then-Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla in a six-person race by less than 500 votes.
The end of the race was colored by a racist flyer that said “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town!” with a picture of Bhalla and a paid for line from DeFusco, who immediately denounced the dirty tactic.
No one has been charged for their involvement with the flyer to date.
Then in 2019, he easily defeated Migdalia Pagan-Milano, who was running on Bhalla’s slate, by a roughly 2-1 margin despite a super PAC paying for attack mailers against him.
In terms of governmental accomplishments, DeFusco said that he is proud of bringing public art to Hoboken, implementing a $2 million street safety plan along the Newark Street Corridor, reactivating vacant kiosks on Pier A, making street safety improvements, and advocating for converting open space to parks – among other things.
2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, a friend and frequent political ally of DeFusco, commended him for his service to the city.
“I know how difficult a decision this is for Mike. He loves Hoboken so much and has fought hard and done a lot for his constituents and to make our city better,” she said.
“He has been a great partner on the City Council and I look forward to our remaining months working together and our continued friendship in the years beyond.”
During the October 18th episode of HCV Live and Uncut, DeFusco said he planned to run again, and while his relationship with the Bhalla administration had improved, he didn’t see himself running on the mayor’s ticket.
“Listen: I am not going anywhere, I’m the city councilman, I plan on running for re-election next November,” he said at the time.
“ … I doubt I would run on a ticket with the mayor. I would, however, like to work with the mayor on decisions for the city that are less political and more policy-based.”
He did not immediately return a call seeking comment on why he changed his mind since then.
In his professional life outside of politics, DeFusco is the senior director of creative marketing at CBS Sports and has been nominated for seven Emmy Awards in that capacity.
Paul Presinzano, a former close ally of DeFusco, announced his candidacy for the 1st Ward council seat in January and just got into a Twitter spat with the incumbent on Sunday in the midst of flooding due to another heavy rain storm.
“The challenges Hoboken has faced over the last few years have demanded a great deal from our public servants. I respect Councilman Defusco for making what was surely a tough personal decision and want to thank him for his service,” Presinzano said late Tuesday evening.
“I am honored that he approached me about running for Hoboken City Council in 2021. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for him, I would not have pursued public office.”
With DeFusco out of the race, the only incumbents to formally announce their re-election campaigns are 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, the latter who has a declared challenger in Liz Urtecho.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from 1st Ward council candidate Paul Presinzano.