BAYONNE, NJ - If nothing else, John Cupo’s campaign to become the First Ward councilman proves his tenacity.
Cupo is one of four candidates running in the special election on Nov. 5 to fill the unexpired term of Tom Cotter. Cupo is opposed by Peter Franco, Paul Hagdorn, and Neil Carroll III – who was appointed to the seat last December.
Cupo, 69, has been a resident since 1967 when he claims at age 17, he helped his mother buy a house here. Cupo previously ran unsuccessfully for an at large council seat in a special election in 2009. A year later, he ran seeking the First Ward seat in the general election, which he also lost.
After being involved in early efforts to have Bayonne switch from an appointed Board of Education to an elected one, Cupo ran three times – in 2015, 2016, and 2017, hoping to become a school board trustee.
“I thought it was important that people get to elect their trustees,” Cupo said. “I helped Michael Alonso early on to get this as a referendum.”
In the past, Cupo has served as a commissioner on the Jersey City Zoning Board of Adjustment and has been a real estate instructor at St. Peter’s College. Cupo is currently a commissioner on the city’s housing authority board, a position appointed at the approval of Mayor Jimmy Davis.
“Since Jimmy Davis appointed me, this one reason I think I can work well with the current council,” Cupo said – although his campaign slogan is “Cupo Core Supporters” suggesting that he can bring many of his own votes out, and not have to rely on other political leaders.
This may be necessary since Carroll comes into the election with significant endorsements, including from state and county incumbents seeking reelection in the same ballot.
“As previous elections show, I have my own base of votes,” Cupo said, pointing to his 2017 school board election that brought him more than 2,400 votes citywide. He estimates that about 900 of these came from the first ward. Although he only needed 100 signatures of registered voters to qualify to run in the upcoming special election, he turned in 2,000.
“Since then I’ve spoken with thousands of residents and feel many of them are behind me,” Cupo said.
“This is going to be a low-turnout election with as few as 2,500 people voting. I believe I have to votes to win no matter who is supporting my opponents. I believe people are impressed with me and believe I can get the job done.”
While municipal elections in Bayonne are non-partisan, Cupo said party politics may play a role in deciding the outcome of the special election. A registered Republican, Cupo believes Republicans will turn out to help counter the Democratic support he expects Carroll to get. Cupo hopes to get the endorsement of city, county and state Republican chairmen.
Self-funded, Cupo believes his campaign will be able to match Carroll dollar for dollar and will be able to get campaign workers on the street on election day to get the vote out. He also has an active social media campaign underway.
“I can be a full-time councilman,” Cupo said, taking a political jab at Carroll, who works at a teacher in the Bayonne School District. “But I’m not a yes man. I can work with the administration, but I have my own point of view.”
Having worked at a real estate agent since 1973, Cupo believes he has the management skills that qualify him to serve on the city council – at one time overseeing a company with as many as 300 employees and millions of dollars in finances.
Among the issues he is most concerned about are development and business.
“We need to better control the pace of development,” Cupo said. “I’m opposed to abatements of 20, 25, or 30 years. We don’t need them for developers to come to Bayonne.”
Flooding, of course, is a prominent issue in the First Ward which occurs routinely during even non-historic storms.
Cupo said the city needs to be more responsive to paving the streets and repairing potholes, as well as creating ways to control the speed of traffic – such as more speed humps and better signage.
Parking in the First Ward, as in the rest of the city, is a concern as well, which Cupo said he will work to improve once he gets seated as councilman.
While crime is not an overpowering issue in the First Ward, there are problems such as vandalism and thefts from parked vehicles, and he said he would support the hiring of more police to increase police presence. He also believes there is an increased need for more affordable housing.
“These are basic issues that I would work to revolve when elected,” Cupo said.
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