Watterman could Become a Potential Challenger for JC Mayor


The naming of Joyce Watterman as the president of the Jersey Council earlier this year didn’t merely

Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro wants a special election for the Board of Education seat vacated by Matt Shapiro last month. Lavarro cites a legal opinion by the Jersey City Department of Law, which states that the vacated seat should be filled after this year’s November election.
Councilman Rolando Lavarro.

make history – she is the first African American woman to rise to that position – but it also indicated a seismic shift in behind the scenes politics from a year ago when she was supposed to have gotten the post.

Machinations behind the scenes last year by Councilman Rolando Lavarro allowed him to cobble together enough votes on the council to retain the seat for himself, denying Watterman a platform she might have used to position herself for a mayoral run in the future.


Back then, Lavarro was able to get newbie Ward E Councilman James Solomon to side with Councilmen Richard Boggiano and Michael Yun to build a solid block of votes against Watterman – or any other candidate Mayor Steven Fulop might have wanted to see in that post.

Perhaps it was no surprise that Boggiano and Yun were not at the meeting to cast their votes on Jan. 2 allowing her to take the post by a 7 to 0 vote.

The big surprise was the fact that Lavarro voted for her, and even more surprising, lavished her with praise.

Watterman was back then and still is now a powerful potential rival for anyone thinking of become a mayor.  An at-large councilwoman and minister in Ward F, Watterman was first elected in 2013 on the Fulop ticket. But her reelection numbers were impressive enough to perhaps scare Fulop to staying out of the fray last year that allowed Lavarro to retain the council presidency.

The city council, of course, is loaded with potential wannabe mayors. In fact, the only prominent figures in Jersey City not running for mayor is the son of Bruce Springsteen, who is too busy fighting real fires to deal with political ones.

But a lot has changed in a year.

Watterman is still dangerous politically, but Lavarro has fallen so out of favor, Fulop might even have backed his long-time adversary Boggiano had Boggiano been the only other choice.

While Lavarro used his platform as council president to oppose some Fulop initiatives in the past, the last year has seen outright rebellion with Lavarro questioning a number of executive actions by the mayor which perhaps should have sought council approval.

But Watterman is more than a little qualified for the position. She is deeply involved the community as a minister as well as a member of a number of key boards and committees. She’s a member of the NAACP, a chaplain for the Sheriff’s Department, as well as a member of a business district committee, rent control, and is the former president of the Women’s Political Caucus of Hudson County to name a few.

Removing Lavarro as council president is only the first step of a more permanent solution in 2021, when Fulop will dump him from the ticket entirely. Just who Fulop intends to name to the ticket has sprouted a lot of speculation. But a good guess would be Amy DeGise, daughter of Council Executive Tom DeGise.

Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise

Amy DeGise is currently chair of the Hudson County Democrat Chair.

Naming her to his ticket would go a long way to keeping Tom DeGise and other county Democrats from backing a Fulop opponent. After all, Fulop was partly to blame for trying to unseat Tom DeGise last year in a political fight that become extremely personnel.

Watterman’s motive for seeking the council presidency may involve future plans to become mayor and possibly follow in the very large footsteps of Glenn Cunningham, who was Jersey City’s first African American mayor. If successful, Watterman would also become the first woman elected as mayor.

Marilyn Roman, a current member of the Jersey City Board of Education, briefly held the post as mayor after resignations and other problems for her as council president to serve as acting mayor more than three decades ago.

Despite her prominent position in the African American community, Watterman probably doesn’t have the clout or funding to push Fulop out of the seat and would face some serious competition if for some reason Fulop decides he doesn’t want it anymore.

A number of other council members envision themselves as making history, Daniel Rivera would like to

Jersey City Councilman Daniel Rivera.

be the first Latino mayor of Jersey City. Michael Yun would like to be the first Korean American mayor.

While Solomon seems to be on significantly better terms with Fulop than when he was first elected two years ago, he is so much like the person Councilman Fulop looked like years ago, you have to believe he has mayoral aspirations as well.

Unfortunately for all these aspirants unless the political climate changes dramatically over the next year Fulop is going to be hard to beat he has money and he has built an agenda that is so successful Jersey City he might be able to remain mayor forever.

Considering all of the State and regional political figures Fulop has peeved over the last few years he might have to remain as mayor.

This of course leaves the one big question going into the new year as to whether or not Fulop can talk Bruce Springsteen into doing the annual Fourth of July show at Exchange Place.

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