Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora was re-elected in what many have called a landslide victory in November with 70% of the vote. Gusciora is sometimes called the “gay mayor” by both his critics and supporters. He began his second term as mayor at a small New Year’s Day swearing in at Trenton City Hall.
During the mayoral election campaign the vitriol and scalding words of anti-LGBTQ hate from his primary opponent, City Council President Kathy McBride, was heard as expected. She was a severe critic of Gusciora throughout the past few years. But her political voice and criticism apparently fell on mostly deaf ears in the capital city. This was a welcome change from what many had expected.
Earlier in 2022 McBride had announced she would not run for another term on the city council, but would mount a vigorous campaign against Gusciora for the position of mayor. She was considered the main opponent (there were two others on the ballot, Robin Vaughn and Cherie Garrette).
McBride has been full of anti-gay vitriol for many, many years. She also spoke out with what many consider disturbing views on ethnic and religious differences in phone conversations during COVID-19 while city council was conducting business meetings via Zoom calls.
Jennifer Williams was elected in a runoff by a single vote for the city of Trenton’s North Ward council seat. There will be another “hand count” to verify the votes for the third time this weekend. She is the first-ever transgender municipal officeholder in Trenton. She said the “final” recount will be the first step in restoring confidence in Mercer County’s voting process.
“I think we really need to have a serious conversation about how elections are being conducted in the future and make sure that there are redundancies already ahead of time,” Williams said. “We also want to make sure that there’s full transparency and that the voters and our county and across the state can be confident that when elections occur that it’s a good clean election so we don’t have a lot of crazy conspiracy theories. We need to stop that.”
Williams led in the initial vote count by 11 votes. Later, some provisional and absentee ballots erased that gap in a recount, leaving her and Ward tied at 425 votes. Three voters decided to “cure” technical problems with their ballots by mail, allowing their votes to be counted and giving Williams a 427-426 edge pending the “final” recount. Don’t ever say your vote does not count.
Williams has been on the City Council for two meetings thus far. She said her first two meetings have been “quick and efficient” with none of the rancor that came to define the previous council. “I think people were very, very much glad to see that there’s no yelling, there’s no screaming. There’s no nasty comments towards anyone. And we’re getting the people’s business done,” Williams said to NJ101.5 radio.
Williams served as Trenton’s republican municipal chair and as a member of the city’s zoning board for 14 years. In a four-way race during the November elections she was the winner. But because no candidate won more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election was held on December 6, pitting Williams against Algernon Ward, Jr.
“This was a tough campaign and my team and I worked very hard to reach every voter in every neighborhood. My message was clear that respect, honor, and commitment would come back to Trenton,” said Williams. “I think voters responded by saying they want change in our city and a bright new future to come to the capital city. As we go forward, I believe that as our city becomes even more diverse and we become more of a melting pot, a rising tide will lift all of our boats and we will succeed together.”
The remainder of the City Council elections were very competitive too. The final votes for the three at Large council seats is still up for grabs and scheduled for a late January runoff vote next week. One of the six candidates vying for one of the three seats available is Kadja Manuel, a gay man, who wrote for Out In Jersey magazine and worked for Garden State Equality. If elected, he will be the second LGBTQ councilperson in the capital city joining Williams.