The race for mayor of Belleville ring will feature a contest between an entrenched white incumbent and a Latina school board member in a town that has seen the Hispanic population jump from 24% in 2000 to 39% in 2010 to an estimated 45% in 2016. The election is non-partisan and will be held in May.
Mayor Raymond Kimble was first elected in 2006, after serving as police chief and township manager. He was re-elected to a third term in 2014 by 417 votes (55%-45%) against Councilwoman Marie Strumolo Burke in a race marked by allegations that Burke used a racial slur in a voicemail message.
Kimble will face school board member Liza Lopez, an attorney and educator who served as president of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey. She also served as an Associate Counsel to the Newark school district while it was under state control, and as a member of the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Police Standards.
When she ran for the Belleville Board of Education in 2016, Lopez was the top vote-getter, running way ahead of the other candidates in the race; she received 5,951 votes, with the second-place finisher, Thomas Graziano, getting 3,245 votes.
In 2013, Kimble was part of a group of Essex Democratic mayors who endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election campaign. A year later, Matt Friedman, then with Advance Media, reported that Kimble used his relationship with the governor to get $6 million in Hurricane Sandy recovery dollars to help fund a new senior citizen complex. Christie advocated for helping Kimble, who got the grant two weeks before the endorsement despite Belleville receiving relatively little damage in the superstorm.