The lone challenger to Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop in the November 2 non-partisan municipal election was a Republican for 11 years, voter registration records show.
Author and educator Lewis Spears registered as a Republican in 2006 and remained part of the GOP until moving his status to unaffiliated in 2017. He became a Democrat in December 2019.
That means Spears would have missed the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008 and 2016, and Gov. Phil Murphy’s primary four years ago. Fulop backed Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Despite being registered as a Republican, he only voted in one GOP primary: in 2015, Spears was one of just 1,702 Republicans to vote in the primary election.
He registered to vote in Hudson County in 2004, moved his registration to Middlesex in 2017, and then back to Hudson that year.
Spears told the New Jersey Globe that he did not recall being a Republican.
“In general elections, I’ve never voted for a Republican,” he said. “I’ve always voted my conscience. I even vote for Steve (Fulop).”
Republicans had a 75-year mayoral draught in Jersey City between Mayor Mark Fagan’s retirement and the election of Bret Schundler in a 1992 special election.
Schundler had been a Democrat – he worked on Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign – before switching parties and taking on State Sen. Edward O’Connor (D-Jersey City) in 1991.
He won the mayoralty in a 1992 special election after Gerald McCann was removed from office. Since special elections don’t have runoffs, Schundler was able to win an 11-candidate field with 24% of the vote.
This story was updated at 5:41 PM with comment from Spears.