Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop, who quit Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.’s trading desk to run for mayor, ousted incumbent Jerramiah Healy, whose administration was caught up in an FBI investigation and who was once photographed on his porch drunk, unconscious and naked.
Fulop, 36, who had financial backing from Wall Street, won 53 percent of the vote yesterday, according to results on the Hudson County clerk’s website. Healy, 62, who had endorsements from President Barack Obama and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, had 38 percent, with 96 percent of the votes counted. Both candidates are registered Democrats, though the race was nonpartisan.
The candidates battled for control of a city savvy enough to lure Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US), UBS AG and Citigroup Inc. (C:US) to open offices, earning it the nickname “Wall Street West.” Healy, though, was unable to shake Jersey City’s reputation for a century of crooked politics. Fulop won after telling voters it was time for Healy to quit embarrassing New Jersey’s second-most-populous city.
“The traditional party organization in Hudson County that was strongly backing Mayor Healy was not as strong as some people like to think,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville. “People will look to the divide in terms of old Jersey City and new Jersey City.”
In 2009, Jersey City was rocked by “Operation Bid Rig,” which netted 44 public officials and rabbis in the largest Federal Bureau of Investigation corruption sting in state history. The case led to prison sentences for Healy’s deputy mayor, Leona Baldini, who had been his campaign treasurer, and several other aides and allies.
Healy, recorded on a hidden FBI camera meeting with an undercover informant, was never charged. Fulop used the footage in a campaign advertisement with a tagline, “Mayor Healy got away with it.” Healy’s campaign issued a cease-and-desist letter that called the material defamatory.
Healy, a former prosecutor, municipal judge and councilman, became mayor after winning a November 2004 special election to succeed Glenn Cunningham, who died of a heart attack. He was re-elected in June 2005 and again in 2009.
If Fulop had received less than 50 percent of the vote, he would have had to face Healy in a June 11 runoff. Yesterday’s election, which drew 28 percent of registered voters, marked “a generational shift,” Dworkin said last night.
A total of 38,583 voters cast ballots for mayor, a record for an election in which Healy was up for a full term, according to data from the Jersey City clerk’s office. The figure was 18 percent higher than the 2009 total, and 35 percent higher than in 2005. Fulop had said low turnout would keep Healy in office.
In 2004, while Healy was still a councilman, a photo of him sleeping nude on his front porch surfaced on the Internet. The New York Times quoted Healy saying in 2006 that he didn’t remember how he got on his porch after drinking six to eight beers at a local bar.
In an interview this year with the Star-Ledger of Newark, Healy was quoted as saying that “three Hispanic girls” had lured him outside, pulled off the towel wrapped around him and did “filthy” things to him. He chased them off, then sat on the porch, and was then photographed by a political enemy, according to the newspaper’s account.
In 2006, the mayor was arrested and convicted of a disorderly person offense after scuffling with police outside a Bradley Beach bar owned by his sister. Four years later, the state Supreme Court’s disciplinary review board admonished him for the incident, and the Jersey Journal of Jersey City called for his resignation.
Fulop worked at Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., leaving after the 2001 World Trade Center attacks to join the U.S. Marine Corps and serve in Iraq. He was elected to the City Council in 2005 at age 27, and represents a ward that includes downtown. He was endorsed for mayor by Advance Publications Inc.’s Jersey Journal and Star-Ledger.
“With your help, we won tonight, and I know that this is a tremendous responsibility to bring every community in this great city forward,” Fulop told supporters last night. “It is something I will work tirelessly on to make you proud.”
Fulop’s backers included Appaloosa Management co-founder David Tepper and Pennant Capital Management founder Alan Fournier. He was the subject of supportive mailings from Better Education for New Jersey Kids, a New Brunswick-based political action committee that was started in 2011 by Tepper and Fournier to support the creation of charter schools, privately run with public funding.
Healy had tried to get a Superior Court judge in Hudson County to force the group to stop producing campaign ads. In a May 10 lawsuit, Healy accused it of engaging in “explicit advocacy of Fulop’s candidacy” and skirting campaign-finance laws. Judge Peter Bariso dismissed the suit.
As of May 2, Fulop had raised $955,964 to Healy’s $804,028, according to state campaign-finance data.
Jersey City, with 250,000 residents, is New Jersey’s most diverse municipality, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by Bloomberg. About 75 languages are spoken in the homes of the children who attend its public schools.
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