Incumbent Mayor Joseph Doria is pitted against former Municipal Judge Patrick Conaghan, former Assistant County Prosecutor Vincent Militello and retired Bayonne police officer Leonard Kantor in a four-way race for mayor.
Doria is seeking his third term as mayor. He is currently serving as the district's state senator and prior to that served on the state Assembly for 24 years.
A former member and president of the Board of Education, Doria ran for mayor in 1998 to help shepherd the development of the Military Ocean Terminal and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail System. His 1998 campaign revolved around the need for the City of Bayonne to protect home rule by cutting city hall's ties with out-of-town interests. Retired Municipal Judge Conaghan also once served as president of Bayonne Board of Education. He has practiced law in Bayonne for more than 40 years, specializing in litigation and real estate matters.
Militello served as an assistant prosecutor from 1996 to 2001, and previously was in active service in the Marine Corps from 1988 to 1992.
Kantor, a Korean War veteran, served on the Bayonne Police Department from 1961 until his retirement in 1980, and has worked as a security specialist for Port Newark for the last 22 years. Kantor has been a vocal critic of various administrations for decades.
Issues being disputed
The two key issues of the campaign have been taxes and the development of the former Military Ocean Terminal.
Conaghan has proposed that the former base be used as a container port, a concept that all three other candidates have opposed.
Doria supports the mixed-use development of the base as proposed in a redevelopment plan, part of which is about to break ground shortly with the first of a possible total 7,000 residential units.
Militello, however, has questioned some aspects of the plan developed by Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority, saying that he would reexamine the project with the idea of scaling back the residential development while expanding other elements that would have a less negative impact on the municipal and school budgets.
Kantor has proposed the development of more office space and other non-residential uses for the former base.
Conaghan, Militello and Kantor have all criticized Doria's five-year municipal budget plan, which would borrow against future revenue from the base in order to meet current municipal expenses. Conaghan's proposal for a port would generate millions in revenue for the city without the heavy investment and increased municipal debt necessary to develop the base under the Doria plan. Doria supporters, however, noted that the port development plan would also require the BLRA to take on debt for infrastructure.
Militello and Kantor have both raised concern over the increased debt the city is taking on. Kantor believes the city cannot recoup the debt with the sale of land. Militello said the city may be squandering its inheritance.
Seven candidates for two at-large council seats
Running on the Doria ticket are Council Members Maria Karczewski and Vincent Lo Re.
Karczewski, who ran as an independent in 2002, is seeking her second term. Lo Re, who previously served as the 3rd Ward councilman, is seeking his fifth term, which would tie the record for longest serving councilperson. Both candidates current serve on the BLRA, so they help shape Doria's vision for the port redevelopment.
Challenging them on the Militello ticket are Agnes Gillespie and Denis Wilbeck, both with roots in the civic and educational community in Bayonne. Gillespie and Wilbeck plan to work with Chiappone on a plan to increase fiscal responsibility and speed up development at the base.
Three candidates have no affiliation with a mayoral candidate. These include incumbent Councilman Anthony Chiappone, and independents Bill Birtwistle and Dave Longenhagen.
Chiappone, who is running for his third term as councilman, has been a vocal critic of the administration during his previous three terms in office. One time state Assemblyman, Chiappone was defeated in his bid against Doria for state Senate and then defeated by Doria-backed candidates in last year's primary for the state Assembly. Not put off by those losses, Chiappone said he believes his record on the council will bring him re-election.
"When you run in a primary, you are running against the political machine, but in the municipal election people vote for the best candidates," he said.
Birtwistle, a retired supervisor for the FBI, who is deeply involved in local civic organizations, is running on a platform that claims it is time for a change in city hall.
Longenhagen, who ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly in 1997, is running a campaign that is focused on fighting tax increases.
All three wards are in play
In the 1st Ward, Doria-backed incumbent Councilman Ted Connolly is seeking his second term against Militello-backed Melba Walsh.
Although Connolly is backed for Doria, he has at times disagreed with some of Doria's policies especially in regard to one-time budget revenues. Connolly hopes voters will choose him because of his experience in office.
Walsh, who lost to Connolly in 2002 by 17 votes, hopes to bring her background in business to the council.
In the 2nd Ward, Doria-backed incumbent Councilman John Halecky is also seeking his fifth term against challengers Robert Mays and Jack Butchko.
Halecky is seeking re-election partly to help oversee some of the development projects in which he has played a part in starting during his previous terms.
Butchko, who pushed Halecky into a run-off election eight years ago, is hoping to unseat Halecky in a campaign focusing on the city's high taxes.
Mays, meanwhile, who has teamed up with Chiappone, hopes to bring attention to the city's youth, although he is also seeking more fiscal responsibility from municipal government.
In the 3rd Ward, Doria-backed Michael Pierson hopes to fill the seat vacated by Lo Re's run for an at-large seat, but faces Militello-backed Washington Flores and independent Gary LaPelusa.
Pierson, who serves as athletic director in the Bayonne School District, hopes to bring attention to Bayonne's kids, but also hopes to spruce up the 3rd Ward business district and work toward redeveloping the gateway section along Avenue E corridor.
Flores' campaign has focused sharp criticism on the lack of services in the 3rd Ward when other business districts in the city had received their fair share. He is also concerned about the dismal view Avenue E presents to people visiting Bayonne. The owner of a trucking company, he hopes to bring his business skills to the council.
Also a businessman, LaPelusa has run his campaign on promoting the 3rd Ward business and redevelopment. Like Flores, LaPelusa hopes to use his business skills to help "tighten the city's belt" in order to keep control of rising taxes.