Commissioner Dave Mello: Vote “YES” to return runoffs to Hoboken

Dear Mile Square View,

Please vote “YES” to return runoffs to Hoboken.

In 2012, when my team got behind an effort to both move the elections from May to November, and to eliminate the runoff elections, I like many was much more enthusiastic about the “move” than I was about the “elimination.”  My initial trepidation stemmed from the fact that someone with far less than 50%+1 of the vote could win, and that just didn’t feel very democratic. I mean, my two time running mate and our team’s leader had won her first elected post because of a runoff (4th Ward Councilperson).  She won because she galvanized the support of all of her opponents who were eliminated in the first round. She kept her campaign positive and issues based, and didn’t alienate those who supported her many May opponents. This unification served her well, as she eked out a slim victory over Chris Campos in that runoff election.  
We, her supporters celebrated, a political career was born, and runoff elections had given birth to it.  So had the efforts at unity that a runoff election requires.

Last year, we saw very little unity.  Instead, we found ourselves in an often ugly, very divisive mayoral campaign here in Hoboken.  Because those running didn’t have to worry about offending their opponents’ voter bases, in some cases they offended them brazenly and constantly (there would never be a runoff in which they would need to woo their support, so why not roll out the low blows?).  The lack of a runoff bred alienating rhetoric rather than unifying appeals to our highly intelligent Hoboken electorate.

Today, we have a mayor, who would have likely won a runoff, sitting in a position of power that he did not win by earning the support of the majority of those who bothered to vote, but whom two out of three voters voted against.  This was a mere plurality win, and it’s had distressingly negative effects on Hoboken. The executive branch leader of a city of well over 50,000 people needs to have earned the support of the majority of its voting citizens for government to be fair and democratic and for the decisions of those entrusted with power to be accepted by those who have entrusted them with it.  Majority rules in our democracy, but majority does not rule here in Hoboken.

Finally, quality candidates are discouraged from running in the absence of a runoff.  “Spoiler” is what a good candidate is typically called if the odds seem to be against them.  “Why don’t you just fall in line, quiet down about the issues you’re passionate about, and let those who have raised the most money fight this fight alone!  Don’t interfere. Don’t gum up the machine.” I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that a large group of candidates actually raises the level of debate in a runoff environment, but has the opposite effect in the absence of a runoff.

There are more problems inherent in not having runoffs than I can detail in a single letter, so I’ll stop with those I’ve already discussed. But all of the many problems that spring from no longer having a runoff election desperately need to be solved and corrected.  We, the Hoboken voters, have the ability to correct these problems on Election Day.  We can bring democracy and majority rule back to our city.  We can stop the discord and bridge the divides that the lack of a runoff has created.  I wish I had voiced my concerns in 2012. I know I must voice my concerns in 2018.

Please join me and vote “YES” and help bring back democracy and unity to the City of Hoboken.

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