Gusciora wins election to serve as Trenton mayor, will leave state Assembly

Reed Gusciora

State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) won a run-off election June 12 to become the next mayor of Trenton, an outcome that means Democrats later this summer will have to replace him in the state Legislature.

Gusciora has been a lawmaker since 1996, but he said on June 13 that his current plan is to resign his Assembly seat July 1 — the same day he takes the oath of office as Trenton’s mayor.

From the time he steps down from his state position, Democrats will have 30 days to fill the vacancy, said Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon), the other member of the Assembly from the 15th District.

Gusciora’s departure will mark the second time this year there has been a vacancy in the 15th District. Liz Muoio quit her Assembly seat on Jan. 15 to join the Murphy administration as state treasurer. Reynolds-Jackson emerged from what had been a crowded field of Democrats seeking to replace Muoio.

As for who might want to replace Gusciora, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes, a Democrat, said on June 13 that he thought Mercer County Freeholder Anthony S. Verrelli has the “inside track.”

Verrelli, the president of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Local 254, ran to replace Muoio, but lost to Reynolds-Jackson during a vote at a convention of Democratic county committee members from Mercer and Hunterdon counties.

“I would think Anthony Verrelli, who came in a close second to Verlina, would have an inside track because he’s made the contacts with all the committee people already once,” Hughes said in calling Verrelli the “No. 1 contender.”

“I think he got a very good response from a lot of people. He only lost to Verlina by a dozen votes or so. I would think he’s probably going to be the one who’s got a head start on everybody. He’s a very good guy and makes a great candidate,” Hughes said.

Verrelli, a Hopewell Township resident, could not be reached for comment. He is serving his first term on the Mercer County Board of Freeholders.

As for other possibilities, fellow Mercer County Freeholder Samuel T. Frisby, a Trenton resident, said on June 13 that he is considering going for the seat. He declined to run earlier this year to replace Muoio.

“The last time, it really was not the right time for me and I thought it was a better time for Verlina,” Frisby said. “I need to have some conversations with our Democratic leadership to just make sure we are all in lock step with what we’re trying to do.”

New Jersey’s 15th Legislative District is made up of the Mercer County municipalities of Ewing, Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township, Lawrence, Pennington, Trenton and West Windsor, and the Hunterdon County municipalities of East Amwell, Lambertville and West Amwell. It is considered a safe Democratic district. Democrats hold a 54-26 edge over Republicans in the Assembly.

Gusciora said he is looking forward to serving as Trenton’s mayor, but he said a part of him will miss being in the Legislature. He first was elected in 1995 and has been re-elected ever since. He transitions from the role of a lawmaker, one of 80 people, to that of the chief executive of a city of nearly 85,000 people.

“Just working on legislation was very rewarding,” he said. “Working with the various stakeholders, particularly with the environment and education issues and economic development … has adequately prepared me to be mayor. I’m going to be reaching out to the same people, but in a different capacity.”

Gusciora will run a capital city where the unemployment rate, once more than 9 percent in 2012, fell to 3.5 percent in April, according to federal labor data. Through May, Trenton has seen an uptick in crime compared to the same five-month period last year.

Robberies, 140, and burglaries, 314, are on the rise, while rape and attempted rape, 17, and major assaults, 170, are down, data at the New Jersey State Police showed. The city had eight murders through May, compared to seven through last May.

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