Five of seven Trenton City Council seats will be vacant on January 1 after a Superior Court Judge moved the runoff elections to January 24, which means Gov. Phil Murphy must fill the vacancies on an interim basis until the election results are certified around February 6.
Until Murphy names an interim city council, the state’ capital city won’t have a quorum to conduct business for the first five weeks of 2023.
Mayor Reed Gusciora, who secured a second term with a massive 71% landslide in the November 8 non-partisan municipal election, will take office on New Year’s Day. So will Councilman Joseph Harrison, who was re-elected to his East Ward seat, and West Ward Councilwoman-elect Teska Frisby.
But three at-large council seats and the North and South Ward seats will remain vacant until the first week in February.
Murphy is required by statute to appoint replacements within 30 days, but the lack of a quorum in a city where the council had been extraordinarily dysfunctional for the last four years would create a severe hardship that could cause the governor to move quickly.
Possible candidates to form an interim city council include some pillars of the community: Rev. Darrell Armstrong, the pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church; Dr. Diane Campbell, a former Mercer County Community College vice president and Trenton school board president; James T. Gee, a former chief of staff to Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman; John Harmon, the president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey; Jeannine LaRue, a former Casino Control Commissioner and now the chair of Garden State Equality; Jeffrey Laurenti, a former executive director of the New Jersey State Senate; and former City Councilwoman Cordelia “Dee Dee” Staton.
The last time a governing body did not have enough members to form a quorum was in 2017 after Roosevelt Mayor Jeff Ellentuck and three members of the borough council resigned. Gov. Christie appointed three new council members.
Christie also named new Farmingdale council members in 2012 after five of the six seats on the borough council became vacant.
Murphy’s appointments are direct and do not require Senate confirmation.