Michael Griffin, who successfully managed Jersey City Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore’s campaign in November 2021, formally launched his bid for the state Senate seat in the 31st Legislative District on Friday.
“Are you tired of corruption?” Griffin asked a room of about 50 supporters at Carvao BBQ to kickoff the weekend and his campaign on Friday evening.
“Yes!,” they replied, giving the same answer when asked if they were tired of nepotism.
“Let me be clear to everyone in this room: Michael Griffin is the next state senator of the 31st Legislative District!,” exclaimed Gilmore.
Griffin filed his candidacy with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJ ELEC) at the end of January and indicated then that Gilmore would be chair of his campaign, as HCV first reported.
With the filing deadline now just three weeks away, the Hudson County Democratic Organization is still yet to announce their legislative endorsements for LD-31, despite doing so in LD-32 and LD-33 in the first week of January.
Of course the situation in LD-31 is a bit complicated, given that state Senator Sandra Cunningham, a five-term senator first elected in 2007, has been dealing with unspecified cognitive health issues, leading to a roughly two-month hospitalization at the end of 2022.
While it’s all but guaranteed she won’t seek re-election in the June 6th primary, her potential success hasn’t been named yet, though sources with knowledge of the situation indicated a consensus should be reached by Wednesday.
Nonetheless, Griffin, who unsuccessfully ran for the Ward F council seat in a six-person race in 2017, said in an interview that he’s all systems go regardless of who the party decides to run.
“Well, first of all, if you think about the 31st, the last two senators that were elected were actually elected off the line, in the beginning at least, right? And this is a different type of community. The 31st District is a grassroots district, right?” he explained.
“Historically, for the past several years, they’ve been doing poorly on the south side. So you know, I think this is the time to strike.”
Although Griffin does not have many direct ties to Bayonne and Kearny, the latter which will be new to the district in 2024 due to redistricting, he says he’s ready to work and doesn’t think that will hurt his chances.
“The approach is gonna be like the last time, right? We’re gonna knock on doors, we’re gonna phone bank, we’re gonna make those relationships in Bayonne, in Kearny, and revisit those that we already have relationships with in Jersey City.”
As far as policy goes, Griffin said he would go through the state budget with a fine-toothed comb to prevent massive funding cuts to the Jersey City Public Schools, this year to the tune of $51,062,150.
“For example, I was looking at the budget and we actually had a $4.2 billion dollar surplus … There were a lot of unnecessary programs in the budget that need an increase and there were also things in the budget that should have got an increase, [but] their [funding] was decreased.”
He also called for independent audits to ensure that contracts are being bid out appropriately, amongst other cost saving initiatives.
On the topic of expanding recreation at Liberty State Park, Griffin said that while he supports active recreation, he doesn’t want to see big changes like an amphitheater brought to the jewel of Jersey City.
“It would be an environmental disaster to extend on certain portions of Liberty Park where they’re looking to expand the golf course, that’s one. Two … when I first heard about creating recreation and other things like that at the park, I was all for it until I saw the design. A 5- to 10,000-seat stadium is unnecessary,” he began.
“If we’re going to do it, it needs to be done naturally … it shouldn’t look like a sports complex. Absolutely we should have tennis courts, absolutely basketball court, swimming pool – things of that nature. But when you’re talking about bringing events to this park, and possibly events that can exclude the community, I have an issue with that.”
Finally, Griffin said outright that he did not care if the HCDO selects someone in office, like Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), Jersey City Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley, or County Commissioner Jerry Walker (D-3) to run on the line, as opposed to someone not currently in office.
“This race is not about racing against someone, this race is about racing for the people,” he said, noting that issues such as taxes, poverty, and school drop out rates need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Others in attendance included Ward E Councilman James Solomon, former Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden, Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin, as well as Hudson County Commissioner candidates TJ Senger (D-1), Adrian Ghana (D-2), and Alex Valdez (D-9).
The filing deadline for the June 6th primary election is March 27th.