It’s been clear for the last two weeks, but now it’s official: Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora has been re-elected in a mammoth landslide in a local election appears to bring the capitol city’s massively dysfunctional city council to a close.
Gusciora won 71% of the vote, outdistancing his nearest competitor, City Council President Kathy McBride, by 58 percentage points. Robin Vaughn, a controversial city councilwoman with a history of racist statements, finished third with a meager 8%, just 31 votes ahead of newcomer Cherie Garrette.
Two ward council seats will head to a runoff election that has been rescheduled to December 13, but it looks as though Gusciora will have a more reasonable city council to deal with during his second term.
Trenton moved their non-partisan elections from May to November this year, tacking an additional six months onto the terms of the winners of the May 2018 elections. Beginning this year, the city council will serve staggered terms: at-large seats were elected for four years and ward seat were for two years; ward council member will run for four year terms in 2024.
There will be no runoff for the three at-large city council seats, with Yazminelly Gonzalez (3,631), Crystal Feliciano (3,019) and Jasi Edwards (2,682) emerging with victories. Because Gonzalez received 868 more votes than the runoff cutoff, all three top vote-getters were elected.
Trailing in the at-large race are: Alex Bethea (2,169), a former councilman; Tai Wilson (1,983); Kadja Manuel (1,191); Michael Ranallo (739); Clifton Anderson (627); an Waldemar Ronquillo (528).
The only two incumbents on the ballot ran against each other, with East Ward Councilman Joseph Harrison easily winning re-election against Sonya Wilkins, who had been appointed to fill an at-large vacancy earlier this year. Harrison defeated Wilkins by a 59%-28% margin, with 12% going to Ophelia Adderley.
In the West Ward, rising star Teska Frisby defeated Atalaya Armstrong by a 55%-35% margin, with Mary Horne receiving 20%.
The two runoff elections will be in North and South wards.
Jennifer Williams (570) was the top vote-getter in the North Ward with 32.6%. She will face Algernon Ward, Jr. (485), who received 27.7%. Losing their bids were Merkle Cherry (379) with 21.7% and Divine Allah (314), who received 18%.
Damian Malave (494) and Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg (451) will face-off for the South Ward council seat; Malave led the November 8 voting by a 47%-432% margin. A third candidate, Evangeline Ugorji, received just 102 votes (9.7%).
Ugorji barely got on the ballot after submitting nominating petitions that included signatures from dead people. Of the 147 signatures she obtained, 71 of them – just three more than she need – were deemed valid; those 71 followed generous rulings by a Superior Court Judge. Ugorji’s failure to obtain actual votes in an election may serve to fuel a belief that her petitions contained some fraudulent signatures.
Trenton City Clerk Brandon Garcia announced on Monday that the runoff ballot draw scheduled for yesterday was pushed to next Monday at the request of the state attorney general’s office.
The counting of votes in Mercer County has been excruciatingly slow after voting machines in every municipality failed due to a computer programming glitch.