Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, who has had a rocky relationship with the Trenton City Council since he was sworn in nearly four years ago, said today that he’s not sure yet whom he’ll support for the council this November as he himself runs for re-election.
“Right now I’m concentrating on myself,” Gusciora said. “It’s still too early, because petitions aren’t due until September. We don’t even know who all the council candidates are, and I would hate to take a position until that gels together.”
Unlike previous Trenton municipal elections, this year’s election will be held in November instead of May, a change the council made in 2020.
The election will also be the last time that the mayor and all seven councilmembers are elected at once; in future cycles, the four ward-based councilmembers will be elected separately from the mayor and three at-large seats. The winners of ward races this November, then, will only serve for two years before having to run for re-election.
According to Gusciora, the current system contributed to the city council’s dysfunction over the past four years, since so many elected officials were new to city government, including himself.
“That was the problem,” he said. “We had a lot of new councilpeople and a new mayor, and at the end of the day we just couldn’t gel together. It created a lot of friction, because [no one] knew much better than the other person how to run the city, which has a lot of challenges.”
There is guaranteed to be a fair amount of turnover this year regardless. Councilmen Jerrell Blakely and Santiago Rodriguez have already resigned or plan to, and Councilman George Muschal is not seeking re-election.
Two other councilmembers, Council President Kathy McBride and Councilwoman Robin Vaughn, have come under fire for their offensive remarks; McBride used the phrase “Jew them down” in a closed-door 2019 meeting, and Vaughn called Gusciora, who is openly gay, a “pedophile” and accused another councilman of “sucking [his] dick” in 2020. Muschal was also harshly criticized for defending McBride’s comments, calling them “just a statement of speech.”
Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, who appeared at a press conference with Gusciora today highlighting the state’s funding for utility relief, did not have any comment on the upcoming municipal races; Oliver previously called for Vaughn’s resignation when her 2020 remarks became public and slammed McBride and Muschal in 2019.
As for his own re-election campaign, Gusciora has not drawn any notable opponents yet, but he is almost certain to face stiff competition for a second term. Gusciora said that he plans on running on his successes, including restoring Community Development Block Grant funding, becoming eligible for federal transportation monies, and working on restoring Trenton’s housing stock.
“In spite of ourselves, we still have made a lot of progress,” he said. “There have been a lot of accomplishments [and] a lot more competence and professionalism despite the friction with the council.”