BAYONNE, NJ - Slightly more than two weeks ahead of the special election for the First Ward council, Rep. Albio Sires came to Bayonne to help candidate Neil Carroll III campaign.
“Albio took a picture with me early in the campaign telling me I could use it in my literature,” Carroll said Saturday as he waited for the well recognized Sires to join him on a campaign walk through lower Bayonne. “Now he’s coming back to help me campaign.”
When asked why he was supporting Carroll, Sires said, “because he’s the best candidate running. He’s intelligent and aggressive. He’s going to help keep the city moving forward.”
“Our signs are up all over the First Ward,”Carroll said. “In fact, we’re running out of them. Our literature is flying out the door and our campaign headquarters is fully staffed and open to the public.”
Carroll said his basic strategy is to get out into the community and meet people.
“This election is about character and showing people who I am,” Carroll added.
To this end, his campaign has been non-stop knocking on people’s doors.
A teacher, Carroll said that he began campaigning early, taking advantage of the fact that he was off for the summer. “We’re a few districts short of having knocked on every door in the First Ward twice,” he revealed before adding that with each visit residents raise their issues with him.
The number one issue, Carroll said, is the lack of parking, something the city is working to resolve currently through negotiations with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to allow residents of the First Ward to park under The Bayonne Bridge. Discussions are also underway with the school district to open up school property off hours to allow residents throughout the city to park overnight.
Flooding, Carroll said, is the second biggest issue, and the city has just concluded the first of three public hearings to present residents with a proposed flood control plan.
“We’re doing one hearing in each ward,” Carol said.
Two doors up the street on Broadway, Peter Franco’s campaign headquarters is also busy, strategizing their own roadmap to what they hope will be victory.
Carroll and Franco have both invested significant amounts of money into their campaign, in contrast to the much humbler effort of Paul Hagdorn whose headquarters is on West First Street and Cupo, who is waging a fierce social media campaign.
The front windows of both Carroll’s and Franco’s headquarters are plastered with posters and pictures, and the walls inside both are decorated equally well.
Franco just happened to sell his house at the kickoff of his campaign, he said, while Carroll went through the more conventional strategy of holding political fundraisers, different strategies to fund their electoral efforts.
On Carroll’s headquarters wall is a large calendar with a schedule designed to keep the headquarters fully staffed. Franco’s headquarters wall features posters and maps, as well as literature designed for specific parts of the ward. His campaign, he said, is focused on particular problems in particular areas, and he sends out literature that deals with those issues in those areas.
“We want people to know we understand the issues they face and that we have answers for some of their problems,” Franco said.
Franco said he hates campaigning and would rather spend time with his family. But he said this is an important election and he is making a concerted effort to reach out to voters. He said he believes he has a better handle on most issues than his opponents.
While he keeps a picture of the second term mayor on his wall Franco claims the mantle as the “only candidate running who is not aligned with or wants to be aligned with Mayor (Jimmy) Davis.”
Franco said someone on the council needs to be able to raise the right questions, something not possible if all the council members are beholden to the mayor, and keeps the picture, as well as campaign literature from Davis’ previous campaigns, as a reminder to himself to keep campaign promises.
Pointing to passages in the Davis literature emphasizing the mayor’s opposition to long-term abatements Franco said that he doesn’t “believe Jimmy Davis kept those campaign promises.”
Although the election for First Ward is non-partisan, Carroll, representing the third generation one of Bayonne’s most recognized political families, is aligned with the local and county Democratic party, something he doesn’t shy away from having received the endorsement of Mayor Jimmy Davis, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, and his four colleagues on the Bayonne City Council.
Despite his political connections, Carroll has repeatedly said that he isn’t “a rubber stamp” vote for Mayor Davis’ agenda. He just doesn’t believe disagreements have to be waged in a public forum, and that while he, like other council members, has ideas of his own, they are able to resolve them through discussion and consensus, allowing them to present a unified face to the public.
This allows the public to see government working as a cohesive unit, Carroll offered.
For his part Cupo, a registered Republican, has been counting on the support of other Republicans. And while he has received GOP endorsements from outside of Bayonne, the local GOP leadership is keeping a low profile, staying out of what they claim is a non-partisan race.
Hagdorn, who recently held his first neighborhood watch meeting, appears to be relying on word of mouth, and a door-to-door campaign. Social gatherings in his campaign headquarters along with appearances at local fairs bring him into contact with voters – encounters in which he tries to convince them he’s the best candidate of the four.
All four candidates are trying to sell the public that they are best situated to deal with the ward’s problems and would become an asset on the council First Ward residents can rely on.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.
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