Proclaiming “our city our choice,” Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2) launched his bid for Jersey City mayor this morning, with early support from local labor groups and the Jersey City Education Association.
By Daniel Ulloa and John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I am confident that Bill O’Dea will continue to impact our city as our next mayor, significantly, because after all, his dedication, passion, and spirits make him a strong leader for our city,” Hudson County Register Jeff Dublin said during the roughly 50-minute long program at The View which had about 500 people on hand.
“Because he will be our choice: if we vote, we will take back our power to speak up and stand with those who support us. Each of us here in Jersey City must choose their elected officials. Our city, our choice, Bill O’Dea 2025: Let’s get reaaddyyy to rumbbllleee!”
Kristen Zadroga Hart, a ranking member of the JCEA and the mayoral campaign’s committee chair, applauded O’Dea’s honesty and integrity before taking a shot at the only other declared candidate in the race, former Gov. Jim McGreevey.
“He doesn’t use his position for his own gain, he doesn’t seek out praise, but I challenge you to find a single person that has something negative to say about him. No problem is too big or too small for him to tackle,” she stated.
“He has no ego that needs to be inflated and he certainly doesn’t need permission from people outside of Jersey City to tell him to run for mayor.”
McGreevey said at his campaign kickoff that state Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack convinced him to run and he also has de facto endorsements from 8 of the other 11 mayors, with the exceptions being new Kearny Mayor Carol Jean Doyle, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who is running for governor.
O’Dea also had support from two key labor groups: Teamsters Local 560 and the Hudson County Building and Construction Trades Council, the former who outright endorsed him.
“Bill never turned his back on us. We will fully endorse Bill O’Dea for mayor: He was there for us when we needed him, it’s time to fight for who we believe in,” Teamsters Local 560 Business Agent Nick Jayme stated.
Another elected official, Hudson County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado, noted that they both got their start in politics as council aides in 1981 and served together on the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
“He’s my brother, he’s my friend … I usually don’t wear a watch, but I bought a watch, it’s a pretty nice watch. Do you know why? I keep time and it’s time to go out there and kick some ass! Our city, our choice,” he enthusiastically exclaimed.
JCEA Third Vice President and PAC Chairman Mike Greco served as the master of ceremonies and also gave some remarks before O’Dea took the podium.
“It hasn’t always been the trend to help educators. There’s been times when politicians wouldn’t touch us. But you know who always answered that phone? He would be the one to make that call. In the two strikes in JCEA history, in 1998 and 2018, Bill was one of the politicians to join us on that line,” he explained.
“People from Jersey City don’t like to be told what to do … especially over who would lead us. We are the community, we choose the leaders in Jersey City.”
Walking on stage as “Don’t Mess with Bill” by The Marvelettes played, O’Dea acknowledged that some cars that were double parked received tickets, which he said the campaign would take care of.
“It was here in 1997 against the political establishment, including the then-Democratic nominee for governor [McGreevey], that we prevailed, and I was elected to the county legislative body. We won that night by one single vote. I am living proof every vote counts,” O’Dea recalled.
“I am proud to announce my candidacy for mayor of Jersey City,” he said to applause and cheers of “Billy! Billy!”
O’Dea spoke at length about his vision for the city, practically laying out his entire platform on Day 1.
“I have voted against tax increases for Jersey City homeowners. I have always opposed wasteful spending and padding public payrolls with political patronage jobs. That’s why I support rent control and more affordable housing. I have helped create over 1,000 units of affordable housing,” he noted, also noting that he supports getting rid of patronage jobs.
“I ended the policy of giving free lifetime health benefits to people who came to work for the county for only 90 days. I have not taken any pay raises. I’m not here to game the system.”
O’Dea also called for every development project under his watch to include affordable housing and have union labor. He also talked about building a strong partnership with the board of education.
“I will fight to get back our share of state school aid,” he said to applause. “The draconian cuts initiated by our prior governor and prior state senate president were political and unacceptable. They failed to understand the educational needs of our families.”
O’Dea noted he endorsed the right-to-counsel law in Jersey City after he introduced something similar at the county level to ensure tenants have legal representation in court.
“It is time to ensure Jersey City becomes the best small city in America. This is a two-year marathon. We have the people of Jersey City with us. We can turn away outsiders,” O’Dea added.
O’Dea also mentioned responsible, multi-year budgeting, separately funding the police and fire departments instead of having a public safety budget, expanding access to mental health and other services for vulnerable populations, partnering law enforcement with mental health professionals, and a heavy emphasis on constituent services.
“As a kid growing up in Jersey City, my parents taught me to be kind enough to care, but strong enough to lead. Every day, I saw my mom’s kindness. I still remember the day when I was a young councilman [and] I was called home by my sisters,” he recalled, discussing an emotional story where his mom gave a stranger with a shaky story $100.
” … Our mother shut us all down when she told us: what if it is true? And if it’s not, how desperate must that man be to make up a story like that. And thank God I can afford to give him $100. Not a week goes by when those words of wisdom don’t come to mind as I try to help someone who finds themselves in a desperate situation.”
He added that his dad taught him to sacrifice for your loved ones, noting that he worked long and hard to give his family a middle class upbringing.
“I am taking on the political machine again in this race. Make no mistake, we intend to win!” he exclaimed to applause. “And if this crowd is any example, I think we’re in a hell of a position to do that.”
The crowd then repeatedly chanted “Billy” as “We Will Rock You” by Queen echoed over the speakers.
Also in attendance was Jersey City Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise, Board of Education Trustee Younass Barkouch, Jersey City Planning Board Chair Christopher Langston, and Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.
The non-partisan Jersey City municipal elections are on November 4th, 2025.