BAYONNE, NJ - Surrounded by friends, family, and political supporters, Neil Carroll III was declared the winner of the special election for the First Ward council seat just 18 minutes after polls closed on Tuesday.
Carroll pumped his fist in sign of victory, and then hugged supporters, including Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, who was among the prominent officials that endorsed his candidacy.
In a hotly contested off-year election, Carroll defeated his closest challenger, Peter Franco, by more than a two to one margin.
While more than 250 vote by mail ballots were still uncounted, Carroll had received 1,287 votes, Franco, 602, Paul Hagdorn, 237 and John R. Cupo, 214.
“This shows that the voters have confidence in what we have been doing,” said Davis at Carroll’s headquarters on Broadway. “People see and understand what we are doing and want to be part of it with us.”
“I would like to congratulate Neil Carroll and wish him the best of luck,” Hagdorn, a first-time candidate said. “I have no regrets. This was my first run in politics, and I learned a lot. My plan going forward is to go back to selling real estate, being a lot more involved in my community and the First Ward.”
Hagdorn continued to say that he has also launched a Facebook Page, First Ward Bayonne, to allow residents to voice their concerns, and also plans to grow the neighborhood watch group he proposed on the campaign trail.
As for his political future Hagdorn told TAPinto Bayonne that he place to “be more organized and raise more money to run again in 2022.”
Cupo who, even though the contest was a non-partisan one, had hoped to garner votes from local Republicans, acknowledged the uphill battle he had waged against the powerful Democratic machine supporting Carroll, especially when he believes local GOP leaders were also behind the incumbent.
“I’m hoping John Cupo wins,” said Anthony Zanowic, former candidate for mayor, who voted at the 16th Street firehouse at about 3:00 p.m.
A member of the Bayonne Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, Cupo said he will continue on with work there.
“I will concentrate on being a commissioner on the Bayonne Housing Authority to build affordable housing within the city of Bayonne,” he said.
Franco was disappointed but not shocked, he said, adding that he was encouraged by turnout at the polls that showed higher than normal numbers in districts he considered strongly supporting him.
“I’m encouraged by the numbers,” Franco said just after 5:00 p.m., three hours before the polls closed, when he stopped back at his headquarters two doors down Broadway from Carroll’s.
“One of the districts is where I used to live,” he said. “But win or lose, this election is about getting a second chance for someone who might have done something wrong and has been allowed to rebuild his life to do something positive for the community.”
Franco was referring to an issue concerning his bad conduct discharge from the United States Army that surfaced briefly in the campaign – the details of which he disputes.
“I still believe that I am the best candidate and most prepared for the job,” Franco said.
Carroll, also standing in front of his headquarters at 5;00 p.m. said he was not discouraged by the numbers.
“I’ll wait to see what the final tally is,” he said. “I’m not taking anything for granted, but we’re seeing turnout in the areas we thought we would, which is a good sign.”
With Cupo filing a complaint against both the Carroll and Franco campaigns noting that both headquarters, adorned with signs, were within 100 feet of the polling place at the Bayonne Museum, and therefore in violation of state law that prohibits electioneering so close to where voters cast their ballots, Election Day wasn’t without a political sideshow.
County elected officials acknowledged the complaint and the state Attorney General’s Office sent an investigator to look into the situation requesting, Franco acknowledged, that the signs be taken down.
“But this being Election Day we couldn’t find a contractor to do the work in time.”
Franco humorously noted that his headquarters sat about 78 feet from the polling place, while Carroll’s was much closer.
Cupo wasn’t amused.
“Why have a law against having signs up within a 100 feet of a polling place if no one’s going to enforce it?”
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.