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Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Yun death creates November special election for Jersey City council

Tragic death of councilman will expand mayor’s control of city council

By David Wildstein, April 07 2020 2:38 pm

The tragic death of Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun on Monday for an illness related to COVID-19 creates a vacant seat that will have a major impact on local politics in New Jersey’s second largest city.

Voters will fill the remainder of Yun’s term in a special election set for November 2020.

Yun was fiercely independent and sometimes could be a thorn in Mayor Steve Fulop’s side – over the last year the two have enjoyed a significantly strong working relationship – but now Fulop allies on the city council are positioned to flip the Ward D seat to expand their own informal caucus.

The addition of The Heights council seat to the Fulop coalition – Joyce Watterman, Daniel Rivera, Denise Ridley, Mira Prinz-Arey and Jermaine Robinson – could give Fulop enough votes to prevent the override of his veto.

The remaining eight city council members will vote to fill Yun’s Ward D seat sometime in the next 30 days.  The appointed councilmember will serve until the certification of the special election winner.

Fulop and his council allies have two options: pick a caretaker to take Yun’s seat until November, or appoint a new councilmember who would be positioned to hold the seat in the special election.

The challenge for Fulop is to pick a candidate who can satisfy Yun’s constituency, which is not necessarily the same as Fulop’s.  Yun’s closest friend and ally on the council, Richard Boggiano, is a Fulop opponent.  The two frequently battled the mayor on budget issues.

Yun won re-election in 2017 by a 58%-30% margin against community organizer Moriah Kinberg, who ran on Fulop’s slate.

The Heights is an eclectic neighborhood of long-time white Jersey City residents – that’s where Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise lives – with Latinos and millennials moving into gentrified areas of the neighborhood.

Several Hudson political personalities told the Globe that they could see a call for a Ward D seat to go to a Latino, perhaps more specifically the appointment of Jersey City’s first Dominican council member.

The winner of the November special will serve until the council elected in 2021 is seated.

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