Robin Vaughn has taken out petitions to run for mayor of Trenton against incumbent Reed Gusciora, setting up a potentially nasty fight between a gay, white man and a Black woman with a history of hurling racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and hateful statements in a non-partisan election with statewide implications.
Vaughn, a controversial one-term councilwoman, has not yet formally entered the race. The New Jersey Globe has confirmed that her supporters have picked up petitions from the city clerk’s office.
On Tuesday, City Council President Kathy McBride, a Vaughn ally, filed a mayoral campaign account with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
In 2019, McBride ignited a firestorm after she used the term “Jew her down” while discussing the settlement of a lawsuit. She faced criticism from Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver. The entire twelve-member New Jersey House delegation called upon Vaughn to either apologize or resign.
But Vaughn defended McBride, saying “Jew down” was “just a verb.”
The city council voted down a bid to censure McBride.
Councilman George Muschal, a onetime McBride/Vaughn ally who is not seeking re-election, told the New Jersey Globe that “Jew her down” was “just a statement of speech.”
“You know, it’s like a car dealer, they wanted $5,000, you Jew ‘em down to $4,000,” Muschal said. “It’s nothing vicious. The expression has been said millions of times.”
The only announced candidate against Gusciora is Moses Sutton. The Trentonian reported this month that Sutton has been charged with operating an illegal marijuana dispensary out of his Cannabis products store, Moe Weed.
The filing deadline is September 6.
An assemblyman for 23 years, Gusciora was elected mayor in 2018 after finishing second in a seven-candidate field by a 29%-21% vote. He defeated Paul Perez in a runoff by 355 votes, 52%-48%. Trenton is 49% Black and 37% Hispanic, and the five Black candidates who trailed Perez and Gusciora combined to receive 50.4%.
In May 2020, a heated debate over some non-profit organizations that receive some funding from the city, embattled Councilwoman Robin Vaughn descended into early 30 minutes of profane and slur-laced tirades aimed at Gusciora.
Vaughn, who made social media posts warning residents to keep “all eyes on all those ‘do nothing’ nonprofits” in advance of the meeting, claimed that the Trenton Health Team, which drafts Trenton’s community health improvement plan, had not done anything in the years it has contracted with the city.
Gusciora claimed the Vaughn was making baseless attacks and called her a child — and a little later, an idiot, a point that some do not dispute.
The mayor attempted to end the call after Vaughn began shouting. Vaughn responded by claiming that Gusciora, Trenton’s first openly gay mayor and the first openly gay member of the state legislature, is a pedophile.
“You’re nothing but an old pedophile running around with little boys,” Vaughn said. “You need to get the fuck out of the office and get the fuck out of Trenton.”
Councilman Joseph Harrison stepped in to defend Gusciora, deriding Vaughn as an embarrassment and asking the call’s operator to mute the councilwoman.
In the meantime, Vaughn repeatedly called both Harrison and Gusciora “bitches.”
Not long after, she again accused Gusciora of being a pedophile and told Harrison to “continue to suck Reed’s dick, motherfucker.”
“We don’t have bitch ass men in my family. We don’t have bitch-ass men like you and Reed Gusciora in my family. We got real men in my family, bitch asses. Nothing but a bunch of women, that’s all you are. Bitches,” Vaughn said. “That’s right, running around here with young men, and Reed ain’t nothing but an old pedophile. Bitch-ass mother-fucking mayor.”
The call returned to focus on COVID-19 after that, though the reprieve lasted only about two minutes.
As Council President Kathy McBride was attempting to end the call, Vaughn began shouting at Harrison, claiming he had done nothing for Trenton during his time in office and again told the councilman to fellate the mayor.
“Continue to suck Reed Gusciora’s dick all you want to, motherfucker,” Vaughn said.
The two councilmembers continued the deeply-personal fight uninterrupted for about 10 minutes.
Harrison called Vaughn a nobody who would be forgotten after losing her race in 2022. Vaughn said Harrison’s mother was a prostitute.
Eventually, McBride told everyone aside from the feuding councilmembers to get off the call, though she had to do it over Vaughn again calling the mayor a pedophile.
“The only thing he’s brought into city hall is a bunch of young boys, and they’re sitting up there in the mayor’s suite,” Vaughn said.
The quarrel renewed after that, with the councilman repeatedly calling for Vaughn to seek psychiatric help and the councilwoman repeating past charges at Harrison.
After roughly 30-minutes of fighting, Harrison moved to leave the call, and Vaughn again told the councilman to perform a sex act on Gusciora.
“Get the fuck outta here, you bitch. Goodbye. You better get off the phone, you fucking coward,” she said. “Go suck Reed’s dick now, motherfucker. Just go do that.”
Council Vice President Marge Caldwell-Wilson, McBride and Harrison remained on the call after Vaughn’s departure. They said the councilwoman had not attended such a call for roughly two weeks after a previous profane outburst and discussed ways to potentially mute her during future episodes.