In races that are too close to officially call in the recent runoff election for two seats on the city council in Trenton, speculation is rife among many in the state that Gov. Phil Murphy may have to intervene and appoint a interim council in time for the new legislation session in January, according to various reports.
The two runoff races in the North and South wards currently show razor thin margins of victories. In the North, Jennifer Williams has a slim lead over Algernon Ward, 401 to 390 In the South, Jenna Figueroa Kettenburg holds an edge over Damian Malave by 43 votes, 309 to 266. While about two dozen provisional ballots and a number of late mail-in-ballots are being reviewed by election officials, indications are Williams and Figueroa Kettenburg will be victorious. Additionally, official certification of the runoff election will be on December 30. A recount cannot be allowed until then and could lead to a legal challenge from the loser. If that occurs, a quorum would not be in place at the start of the new session in January. Gov. Phil Murphy would then appoint a temporary council. Murphy will appoint interim council members if a final confirmation of the runoff election is challenged by the end of the month.
In November, Mayor Reed Gusicora was re-elected to a second term as head of the city, after a tumultuous and combative relationship with the city council. Council president Kathy McBride and councilwoman Robin Vaughn lost in their bid to replace Gusciora and councilwoman lost in her effort to win a permanent seat on the council to Joe Harrison. New city council member Teska Frisby will represent the West Ward.
Lastly, in a last ditch attempt to win the seat on the South ward and raise the issue of race, Algernon Ward posted a message in the city’s newspaper, The Trentonian, questioned the lack of diversity among the incoming group of council members. Ward posted, “…in a city that is 49% percent African American and 36% Latino, does not bode well for the aspiration of having a representative and inclusive governing body.” Ward has frequently sought public office in Trenton since the mid 1990’s and has been unsuccessful. In a response to his post in the newspaper, many people disputed his claim about the current and previous lack of diversity in politics in the city. For example, on the popular web site, Trenton Orbit Facebook (www.trentonorbit.com) one resident posted, “There were African American and Latino men on the ballot, WHY DIDN’T THEY WIN? When we answer that question and address the challenges of the uninformed, misinformed, indifferent and disengaged Trentonian, the city will be better served.”