Democrat Jay Coffey was elected Mayor of Oceanport as a write-in candidate in 2015, a stunning upset against a two-term Republican incumbent who started the campaign running unopposed.
There was some chatter in Bayonne this week that if voters approve a referendum this year to require top mayoral appointees to reside in the city, it could force Coffey to choose between his job as Bayonne corporation counsel and his post as mayor. That’s not going to happen. State law specifically carved out a residency exemption for lawyers. It’s no surprise that a bunch of lawyers in the state legislature figured out a way around this years ago, since so many find a path to do municipal attorney work. But the law exists, nothing Bayonne can do can force Coffey to leave his small Monmouth County town, as long as he’s the mayors choice for the job.
The entire concept raises an interesting issue: since Coffey was elected as a write-in candidate, the succession laws are a bit murky. Normally the Oceanport Democratic County Committee would submit three names to the all-Republican Borough Council, who would then pick a new mayor. Coffey is a registered Democrat, but not elected as one, so it’s not certain whether his party is entitled to replace him. That could put Council President Joseph Irace in the job.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the Bayonne referendum applied to Coffey. It does not. In this case, the state law would prevail.