Jersey City Councilwoman-at-Large candidate Esther Wintner, running on Bill Matsikoudis’ ticket, said she’ll be “fair and judicious” if elected, also explaining why she choose to run on a slate and her complicated political past with Mayor Steven Fulop.
Wintner, at one point a strong ally of then-Ward E Councilman Fulop, noted two turning points in their relationship that led to a permanent political falling out.
“He asked me where I lived and who my councilman is and I said ‘It’s David Donnelly’ and he said ‘Well he’s an empty suit and you should go back to City Hall and you should call him out,” Wintner said in a sit-down interview recalling the first time she met Fulop in 2009.
” … And then, when we decided to do the recall, myself and a group of activists that we had met down here, we couldn’t do a recall in Ward B: so that’s how I ended up running in the special election. And so it was a little curious for me to see that he was now going around with David, who he had called an empty suit.”
Donnelly, now the executive director of the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency, was appointed to the council in October 2009. He did not seek re-election when Fulop faced off with incumbent Jerramiah Healy in the 2013 mayoral race.
Wintner also said that Fulop “flipped out” on her at a council meeting as they were having a public debate about campaign contributions in 2012. While she didn’t get into the particulars, she said she knew that was when the bridge had been burned for good.
A spokeswoman for Fulop’s campaign declined to address any of Wintner’s criticisms.
Now, seeking a council seat for the third time, the first time both as an at-large candidate and on a slate, the former Civic JC president (she recently stepped down to avoid any potential conflicts) also weighed in Matsikoudis’ potential as mayor.
While critics have said that Healy’s failures are equivalent to those of the former city corporation counsel, Wintner mostly disagrees with that assessment.
“Well, ya know, there might be some truth to that. I can also look at the current corporation counsel and ask the same question: he’s the head of the MUA. Right? So do I blame the corporation counsel or do I blame the head of the snake?,” questioned Wintner, who emphasized that it’s ultimately the mayor who makes decisions in City Hall.
She further stated that Matsikoudis has never held elected office so it is unfair to say what kind of mayor he would or wouldn’t be at this point.
Arguably most importantly, Wintner also addressed why she’s best qualified to serve in an at-large race where all three incumbents, Rolando Lavarro, Daniel Rivera and Joyce Watterman, are seeking re-election on Fulop’s ticket.
“Well I think that I have focused on the issues, and as an activist, and I do use that word activist because I think there are a lot of community people that may be running or want to run that are calling themselves activists but they’re not activists, they’re community people, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” explained Wintner.
“But activists take positions, activists take an action, and so I think that I’ve been pretty upfront and vocal about my feelings on things: whether they are abatements, whether it’s on the transfer of 16 acres of property, or changing the election date – I have taken positions – whether it’s suing City Hall - taking positions and taking actions.”
The Jersey City municipal elections are on November 7th.