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Trenton mayoral candidates’ strategies diverge in final days

Gusciora targets likely voters, Perez just out shaking hands

By Nikita Biryukov, June 11 2018 4:45 pm

With just one day left before Trenton’s Tuesday runoff election, Paul Perez, the top vote-getter in the first round of voting, took to the streets, personally canvassing in the city’s four wards, while Assemblyman Reed Gusciora took a slightly more targeted approach, at least personally.

Gusciora spent much of the morning and early afternoon visiting senior centers around Trenton, hoping to speak with many of the capital city’s elderly voters in one go. Though, that’s not to say traditional canvassing has come to a close for Gusciora. He still has canvassers deployed on the city’s streets and is likely to canvass personally later in the day.

“It’s like a higher concentration of voters, but we’ve done the North Ward. I guess what he feels he can get is people that are aligned with Kathy McBride, but we have an operation in all four wards,” Gusciora said, referring to the Trenton councilwoman that endorsed Perez in 2014. “So, he, I guess, he would be micro-targeting the South Ward and where he thinks he has his friends like Darren Green and Kathy McBride.”

While Perez spent some of the day in the city’s North Ward, he was likely to spread out and hit the rest of the city’s wards before the day was done.

Still, despite the measures both campaigns seemed less than sure that a victory would come their way.

“What I can say is we’re hopeful,” said Perez press secretary Bill Rovner. “Ultimately, it’s up to the registered voters of Trenton to decide. We have 39,000 registered voters and we’re hopeful that they’ve heard our messages.”

In part, low turnout – Trenton is somewhat famous for having low voter turnout and high rates of voter apathy – in the city could swing the election either way. Voters in the city have gone to the polls twice in as many months. Especially recent were last week’s primaries.

It doesn’t help that the tone of the election has grown more and more acerbic as the runoff campaigns wore on. Attacks like those lobbed back and forth between Perez and Gusciora at the mayoral debate last Sunday could have such a chilling effect on voter engagement.

As is obvious, the candidates won’t know how turnout looks until the day of, but they’re also blind to how those voters might break. Neither campaign has conducted any internal polls, and indications on how voters might lean from canvassing can be less than reliable. Put simply, there’s no guarantee that those voters will show up at the polls on election day.

A little less than 9,000 voters turned out to vote for mayor last month — about 23% — down from the 10,195 in 2014.  The number of voters in the runoff four years ago between Perez and Eric Jackson was 10,059 — about the same as the May election.

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