Sending the strongest signal yet that he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for governor, Steve Fulop announced this morning that he will not seek re-election to a fourth term in 2025.
“I’ve decided that I won’t be on the ballot again as mayor. I want to make that clear,” Fulop said in a video meant to thank the voters of Jersey City. “It’s time to let someone else lead this special city, and for me to really think about what I want to do next.”
Short of announcing his candidacy, which would trigger a spending cap under New Jersey’ gubernatorial public financing law, there is little more that Fulop can do at this point.
The move allows potential successors to get an early start on their own campaigns, and after three full terms — the most since the legendary Frank Hague vacated the post after 30 years in 1947 – he is telegraphing that he’s ready to voluntarily give up his fallback option after what will be a 20-year stint as a mayor and councilman.
Fulop is also flagging that he’s prepared to tout a mostly progressive record as mayor of the state’s largest city.
“The forward momentum happening in Jersey City is undeniable, and while there is much more work to be done, I feel confident that new leaders can build on the foundation we have built while charting their own unique path forward,” said Fulop, who is using his announcement to tout his own accomplishments as mayor – and make it clear that he will finish his current term that expires at the end of 2025.
He touted his record of no municipal tax increases during seven of his ten years as mayor, including the elimination of controversial tax abatement policies instituted by his predecessors, along with a record he says is “leading the state” in the construction of affordable housing and economic development.
Fulop’s decision to show his cards now stands in contrast to eight years ago, when he proposed moving the 2018 non-partisan municipal election from May to November as a possible safety net if he ran for governor in 2017 and lost the Democratic primary.
“I first ran for elected office in Jersey City when I came back from serving abroad in the Marine Corps because I believed that I had something different to offer both as a leader and as a public servant, and I could not be more proud of the progress that our community has made since then,” Fulop stated. “Running for office outside the political establishment and standing up to powerful interests to fight for Jersey City’s future has been both incredibly challenging and rewarding.
He added, “Having the chance to do that while getting married to my wife Jaclyn and raising our family here in the city we love has meant more to me than I ever could have imagined.”
Fulop takes credit for the revitalization of Journal Square, the Vision Zero initiative that led to Jersey City having no traffic deaths in 2022, as well as an expansion of open space, investment in infrastructure, and the hiring of more police officers.
“I’m going to work tirelessly over the rest of this term to finish the projects we started,” he said. “I love Jersey City and the city’s future is bright.”
The 45-year-old grandson of a Holocaust survivor, Fulop grew up in Edison and worked at Goldman Sachs before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps after 9/11 and being deployed to Iraq.
Fulop is immensely popular in Jersey City, where he began his political career as city council candidate in 2005. He unseated incumbent Junior Maldonado, now the Hudson County Clerk and a strong Fulop ally, by a 55%-45% margin in Downtown Ward E. After eight years on the council, he unseated Mayor Jerramiah Healy by a 53%-38% margin. He was re-elected in 2021 with 68% of the vote.
He’s also grown politically since plunging into the 2017 gubernatorial campaign soon after becoming mayor, only to announce in September 2016 that he would not run.
A super PAC allied with Fulop, Coalition for Progress, has more than $5.9 million cash-on-hand as of November 28, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
With Gov. Phil Murphy term-limited, the race to succeed him is already underway. In addition to Fulop, Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) and Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Montclair Mayor and New Jersey Education Association President Sean Spiller, and former Senate President Steve Sweeney have been getting the most attention as they show up at Democratic events across the state. Republican Jack Ciattarelli announced just ten days after nearly upsetting Murphy in 2021 that he would run again in 2025.
Fulop has already received public declarations of support from Hudson County Democratic Chairman Anthony Vainieri, State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, and Craig Guy, the leading candidate to become Hudson County Executive this year.
“I’m grateful for having had this opportunity, and I just wanted to say thank you,” he says in his video.