Two gay men run for one seat in a crowded Jersey City council election

Michael "Billy" Bisogno
Michael "Billy" Bisogno

Jersey City now has two LGBT candidates running for City Council. One was endorsed by Garden State Equality yesterday, and one was not. Both are seeking the same City Council seat and the verbal sparring seems to be getting heated.

The two gay men hoping to succeed Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne are both serious contenders. But Garden State Equality endorsed one over the other as a sign for the LGBT community to rally for the “GSE preferred” gay candidate over the other.

Michael “Billy” Bisogno, 35, received the endorsement at a press conference at City Hall with GSE Executive Director Christian Fuscarino. The other gay candidate, Jake Hudnut, 34, did not know about the endorsement ahead of time, he says. This may show that the crowded council race is very close. Political insiders say GSE was forced to take a side with hopes of electing a LGBT person to the City Council seat. Ward E includes a huge portion of the upscale and LGBT community presence in New Jersey’s second-largest city. There are now over a dozen city residents running for the position. With GSE endorsing Bisogno over Hudnut insiders hope to rally the LGBT voters to Bisogno and increase his chances against all the other candidates.

Hudnut, a lawyer, said that Garden State Equality did not reach out to him to speak about his policy positions and proposals before making their endorsement of Bisogno. He said he is disappointed. Asked if GSE talked to Hudnut before choosing to endorse Bisogno, Fuscarino told The Jersey Journal, “Today is really about throwing our support behind Michael Billy because we want to see people with his type of character and his type of drive, that are on the ground and organizing the LGBT community, get into elected positions.” Asked if that meant “no” by reporter Terrence T. McDonald, Fuscarino did not respond.

Bisogno and Hudnut are both Democrats and the nine Council positions are not party-affiliated, as Jersey City races are nonpartisan.

At Bisogno’s May 23, 2017, campaign kickoff, he told a story about being gay-bashed at 14. He referred to that same theme yesterday. Hudnut’s campaign announcement came in an email form, which had three different images of rainbows and the words “great pride.”

The Garden State Equality endorsement came at a small rally outside City Hall. Fuscarino said the group’s endorsement was “an easy decision” because of Bisogno’s work hosting Jersey City pride events, helping with GSE rallies and his general work in the city mobilizing residents to support LGBT issues. “We’re so grateful for that type of leadership at a local level,” Fuscarino said. He was backed by about a dozen Bisogno supporters.

Fuscarino, who took the helm at GSE in April 2016, said he does not recall the New Jersey civil rights group endorsing at the council level before. Meanwhile, Bisogno said the GSE endorsement reflects the “incredible work” he and his supporters have done. He cited GSE rallies and vigils he helped organize in the last few years. He particularly mentioned the rally last year in support of the 49 victims of the June 12, 2016, massacre at the Orlando Florida gay nightclub Pulse.

“I was gay-bashed when I was a child, when I was 14 years old,” Bisogno said. “Since then I’ve really dedicated my life to make sure that other people have a better life, a more safe life.”