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In runoff, Gusciora sticking to his gameplan

Assemblyman says ‘independent streak’ is what Trenton likes best

By Nikita Biryukov, May 10 2018 4:49 pm

With the field of candidates vying for mayor in the state’s capital narrowed from seven to two, the race is changing, but Assemblyman Reed Gusciora isn’t planning to change his approach – much.

Since finishing second in Tuesday’s election with 1,833 votes, Gusciora has been in talks with his former opponents and their allies. He’s already secured the endorsement of Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. The county’s support could be a big help, but endorsements aren’t Gusciora’s goal, at least not those of the other candidates.

“I’m not necessarily looking for endorsements but ways to collaborate going forward,” Gusciora said. “I think if endorsements mattered, somebody else would have won, and I think that voters I’ve seen resent that, when other people tell them what to do.”

Mercer County Deputy Clerk Walker Worthy, who finished behind Gusciora with 1,637 votes, went into the first round of voting with support from Mercer County Democratic establishment, campaigning with endorsements from Hughes, Trenton Democratic Committee Chairwoman Raissa Walker and former Mayor Douglas Palmer, among others.

As for his strategy in the runup to the June election, Gusciora’s planning more of the same.

“I still have my other base I had and we’re looking to build on that. [I’m] not taking anything for granted, it’s still a street-by-street battle. I expect to be, again, in all the wards knocking on doors and talking to people,” Gusciora said. “It’s real retail politics at its best for a city election.”

That strategy worked for Gusciora in the first round – his get out the vote operation there was run by veteran political operative Dave Parano, who helped Gov. Phil Murphy win the Democratic nomination last year. That operation will likely prove invaluable in his race against last cycle’s second place finisher.

Paul Perez secured 4,410 votes against Mayor Eric Jackson in 2014, and he finished first in Tuesday’s election with 2,546 votes. Perez, a private center executive, brings the strength of a political outsider to the race. He’s not aligned with – or backed by – Trenton’s politicians, something that could work to his favor if Trenton’s historically low voter turnout is any indication.

There are roughly four weeks until the June election, and the candidates will have ample opportunity to employ their strategies in that time, it may even be enough time for Gusciora to convince Trentonians to forget that they’ve elected him to the General Assembly 12 times.

“I’ve always had an independent streak,” Gusciora said. “While it may get me in trouble from time to time, people really are encouraged by the fight I’ve given for the capital city and that I’m willing sometimes not to take popular positions but what is in best interest of the residents of Trenton.”

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