Committed to unseating Mayor Jimmy Davis, and doing so in fighting fashion if it comes to that, and it’s Bayonne, so it will, former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31) will formally launch his 2018 run for mayor next week, from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 11th, at the Knights of Columbus, confirming speculation by Jersey Journal Political Insider Augie Torres.
“I was born and raised in Bayonne,” O’Donnell told InsiderNJ. “I’m the forth generation. I bought a house three blocks from were I grew up. I walk my kids to school on the same streets where my father walked me to school. I’m picking my kids up as we speak. Bayonne’s a great place, and I think it deserves better. I’ve never shied away from a fight. I’ve never walked away from a fight.”
The Irish American married father of three’s been a fire fighter, tavern owner, and assemblyman.
“I never left I never will leave Bayonne,” he said. “A lot of my family is still here. It’s the place I call home.”
O’Donnell – married to a teacher with over two decades in the local public school system – said he plans to make affordability the center piece of his campaign for mayor.
“Our property taxes are skyrocketing,” the candidate said. “We’ve had some new development, which were tax abated deals, and we’re going to have to pay for that the future. I have three children, two in district and one special needs child outside the district, and I have nieces and nephews in the public schools.”
He said he wants to improve the quality of life in Bayonne for those children.
O’Donnell had a brawling career on politics over the course of the last ten years.
A run for mayor will fit right into that narrative.
He started out as the campaign manager for future Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31) in a bruising 2007 fight that ended when Tony Chiappone defeated Chiaravalloti.
Then Mark Smith – O’Donnell’s pal and a protégé of former Speaker Joe Doria – beat the Chiappone-backed candidate for mayor, and O’Donnell supplanted Chiappone in the assembly.
He quickly staked his claim as a pro public sector unions guy at the height of Governor Chris Christie’s overhaul efforts, and ran afoul of the South Jersey Democratic Party-dominant establishment. Convinced of his all-weather advocacy and true Democratic Party roots in the s0-called Christiecrat era, state Senator Barbara Buono (D-18) tapped O’Donnell to lead the state party in 2013.
But South Jersey wouldn’t have it, and jettisoned him in favor of state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), and ultimately for compromise candidate John Currie, who would himself end up embroiled in an ongoing fight with the south, specifically Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
The irony of Smith’s loss to Jimmy Davis in 2014 was the involvement of the local teacher’s union, which blamed the mayor for its short end in a contract dispute. O’Donnell had been one of public sector labors true champions in Trenton – and a dogged political ally of then-Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20).
But Smith also ran dangerously afoul of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). The issue was the 2012 Democratic Primary in CD10.
Smith backed Nia Gill when Menendez wanted him to back Donald Payne, Jr., mostly to safeguard Menendez’s relationship with Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
Too many political enemies broke Smith’s back in a runoff election, and the mayor’s loss meant a jettisoned O’Donnell.
He had served four years in the Legislature.
Now, four years later, and with a handful of years under his belt at Kivvit, he wants to avenge Smith’s loss to Davis by turning Davis back onto the streets.
But it’s really not about Smith anymore.
He’s got his own beef with how the mayor’s run his beloved Bayonne.
“I have a leg up now because I have statewide relationships with other mayors and other county executives,” O’Donnell told InsiderNJ. “I spent the last two years working with big corporate entities, learning their processes and how they evaluate success and failure.”
Set to launch next Wednesday, he hasn’t done any fundraising to date, he said.
“We’re opening the account this week,” O’Donnell said. “It’s crass to fundraise before you even announce. We will be able to fund a robust and positive campaign.”
A positive campaign.
It almost sounds oxymoronic when applied to Bayonne, scene of some of the most brutal local politics statewide.
Does he really want to wade into the nightmare all over again?
“It’s worth it,” O’Donnell said.