With nearly all ballots now counted, Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg has won her race for Trenton City Council in the South Ward, defeating Damian Malave. Figueroa Kettenburg received 323 votes to Malave’s 283, a margin of 53.3%-46.7%.
Figueroa Kettenburg was also up in the initial tallies released on Election Day, but her 43-vote lead was just small enough that it could have conceivably been erased by provisional and late-arriving mail ballots. Ultimately, the ballots counted today broke 14 for Figueroa Kettenburg and 17 for Malave, not nearly enough for him to catch up.
There may be a very small number of cured ballots still to be counted, but they won’t impact the final result.
A social worker with the state’s Department of Children and Families, Figueroa Kettenburg previously ran for the South Ward in 2018, coming in third place behind Malave and incumbent Councilman George Muschal, who was re-elected.
This time around, Muschal retired and endorsed Figueroa Kettenburg in his stead. Malave finished ahead in the first round, but his 48%-42% margin wasn’t enough to avoid a runoff.
Malave made a number of legal challenges in the leadup to the runoff. He filed one lawsuit to cancel the runoff altogether and another to force Figueroa Kettenburg to appear on the ballot as “Jenna Kettenburg,” claiming that she was unfairly trying to appeal to voters in the majority-Hispanic ward. (Figueroa Kettenburg hit back, saying she was “disgusted” that Malave would attack her and her father, Edwin Figueroa).
The judge dismissed all attempts to waylay the runoff, and Figueroa Kettenburg ended up ahead – though the 323 votes she got represent only a tiny fraction of the ward’s 21,000 residents.
Figueroa Kettenburg is the third candidate to be definitively elected to one of the city council’s seven seats; East Ward Councilman Joe Harrison and West Ward Councilwoman-elect Teska Frisby both won without a runoff in November. The runoff for the final ward seat, the North Ward, is still too close to call, while the runoff for three at-large seats was delayed until January 24.