Assemblyman Charles Mainor and the end of black political power in Jersey City

Real Jersey City’s Michael Shurin offers his farewell to Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31), and his thoughts on the end of black political power in Jersey City.

Sandra Cunningham - Jeff Dublin - Charles Mainor - Gerry Balmir - Angela McKnight


I’m not the type to kick a man when he’s down, so unlike others who may have taken joy in his recent political misfortune, I hope Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31) is able to have a successful lame-duck session and wish him well as he moves forward with his life.

Even though this website is largely inspired by Mainor telling me that he “would not agree that fighting the drug war has… taken any lives or caused anything else,” I still have respect for him. However frustrating his comments that day were to me, he gave me straight answers to difficult questions – which is the most I can ask for out of any elected official.

Maybe Mainor will be back soon, maybe he’s gone from politics forever, either way it wasn’t good to see him forced out by the Hudson County Democratic Organization for multiple “liberal” reasons:

1. I’m certainly not state Sen. Ronald Rice, Sr. (D-28), and I’m sure this has gone on long before Mayor Fulop (so I don’t blame him), but LD-31 is essentially drawn to give the black community more political representation. What I’m not sure about is whether mostly white male political brokers deciding who gets the party’s support in LD-31, like what occurred last year for Hudson County Freeholder in District 3, is in line with the spirit of the dsitrict.

(NOTE: There is a Bayonne candidate for the purposes of political peace, but Jersey City could easily elect two candidates if organized properly.)

2. How involved are the Jersey City and Bayonne Democratic committee people in voting on the organization’s endorsement if candidates are so easily selected and replaced?

3. I don’t know how else to say it, and this is slightly cringe worthy, but the LD-31 race has seen multiple black women paraded as the HCDO candidate – raising three serious questions:

– Is it a good thing for the HCDO elitists to decide who is the “right” black female candidate?
– Why were black men excluded as candidates from the decision making process?
– Why couldn’t the Bayonne candidate be a white woman, and the Jersey City candidate be a black man?

I’m not suggesting that Angela McKnight isn’t a great candidate, far from it, what I’m saying is that there was no real democratic process involving leaders from Jersey City’s black community.

District 3 Freeholder Gerry Balmir, Jr. has certainly listened to me speak more than most elected officials, and I think he’s a decent guy, but he’s not from the black community of Jersey City and most didn’t know of him before he was endorsed.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t or cannot be a good freeholder, that’s a matter of opinion, but that there was no democratic process – Balmir was the choice of the establishment.

Looking back to that election, it must hurt Mainor to think of what could’ve been if he supported Jeff Dublin.

Dublin was faced with an unbelievably difficult ballot placement (4G to Balmir’s 4A, with no candidates occupying 4B, 4C, and 4D), in addition to going up against a party ticket with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker at the top, yet only fell a few hundred votes short of victory.

Maybe with Mainor’s support Dublin could’ve held on to the seat, but he decided to stick with the HCDO instead of his childhood friend. When speaking about the state of politics in Jersey City last June, Dublin told me:

“You know Mainor, he’s been my childhood friend… we used to hang out on Bergen Ave… I guess his position is he’s up next year, so he’s worrying about Mainor and not worrying about the affect this was gonna have on the whole community.”

Nearly a year later, after seeing the way Mainor was forced out and how a new candidate was selected by the HCDO, I think it’s safe to say Dublin was correct when talking about the impact Mainor’s decision would have on the community.

I suppose the final test of black political power in Jersey City will be if state Sen. Sandra Cunningham can dictate her own future, instead of the HCDO establishment, come 2017.


  • What Black Political Power are you referencing in your Article? Who, Where and When?

    • Real Jersey City

      From discussing with various people, as a reference point, I would go back to Mayor Glenn Cunningham and all the political careers he helped flourish. I’m sure there were many before him, most I’ve never heard of, but when I say black political power I’m talking about leaders from the black community playing a significant role in choosing candidates from Jersey City in districts that are drawn to increase black political representation.

      – Michael

  • Have you read any history? The districts are carved up in Hudson in order to diminish the power of cities in New Jersey. Cities being racially mixed and heavily black and Latino in parts have more trouble exercising their power when they are cut up. New Jersey is a fundamentally segregated state. The result of this type of redistricting reform all over the country has been to create incumbents that are extremely hard to remove. Prior to those reforms in the late 80’s, I believe, we had flagrant gerrymandering. This is just another type. And political parties are not about fair and right; they are about winning. Historically, Hudson County has helped deliver elections for the Democratic party in a state that is extremely divided. Its a bit like being in the army; you follow the leader. I also think you need to read and study the New Jersey Constitution, which is a remarkable document that amplifies differences in the state and was explicitly written to curb the power of cities, particularly Jersey City. It is part of our tax problem and our corruption problem. You need to try to cover the news objectively until you know more . No mayor wins in Jersey City without a significant, heavy black vote. Again, HAVE YOU STUDIED ANY HISTORY? When was there black power in this country by the way, other than Stokely and Fred Hampton . And that didnt end so well, did it?

    • Real Jersey City

      Mary Mills – I’ve read some history, I suggest you check The Voting Rights Act which demanded the creation of majority-minority districts. Newark and Jersey City would be split either way, otherwise they would be oversized districts and dilute the power of the cities even more. In addition, if you don’t think black people ever had political power, especially in Jersey City, you are greatly mistaken. Jeffrey Dublin explained in the video how Glenn Cunningham was elected. Nationally, don’t think for a second that black people didn’t flex their political muscles by turning out heavily for Pres. Obama in 2008 and 2012. Mayor Steven Fulop didn’t win in Jersey City because he got a “significant, heavy black vote” – he won because he routed in Ward E and split in all the other wards. New Jersey still has flagrant gerrymandering, please get a reality check. For real information about redistricting in New Jersey, read this fine NJ Spotlight article:

      – Michael

  • Why can’t the Senate seat in the 31st come from Bayonne? Maybe a hispanic ?

    • Real Jersey City

      Why can’t the Senate seat in the 33rd come from Jersey City or Hoboken? Because Union City has more votes, same with Jersey City in LD-31.

      As far as a Latino leader being elected in LD-31, even senator, it’s only a matter of time. At some point, given demographic and political change, a Latino voting coalition will likely emerge. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee a Latino leader, as Brian Stack has proven, but that the Latino community – especially business – will have much more political representation.


  • I’m not sure why people making a big deal about HCDO endorsement. It’s great to get the support but poor planning and lack of execution were some of the reasons those candidates who lost their election failed to ignite. My advice move past the old days and embrace the new days.
    On a positive note: Angela McKnight is a great pick.

    Isnel Sanon

  • Your perspectives and insight is spot on Michael! The “power” of the black vote/collective in Jersey City, Hudson County and New Jersey is still and has for sometime now been managed/manipulated, orchestrated and illusory to the political benefit of ruling parties/political cliques -tricks(sters)!
    Most of my adult life and political awareness of black electoral prowess, it was the late Bobby Jackson who masterminded the outcomes of “black politics and power” along with his comrade Joe Caldwell. I remember having heard stories about The late Mayor Cunningham breaking ranks with the HCDO because he didn’t want to “go along” with politricks as usual. Causing the black democratically to split amongst themselves …
    It wouldn’t be hard to amass the black political “power” but most candidates and political figures here would rather take a ride “along” then learn honest representation and process. Shame on them but the greater shame lies with the voter who would barter their personal and collective power for such miserly recompense. Keep writing, you are definitely a refreshing read!

  • Well stabbing each other in the back in JC is par for the course! If Cunningham thinks she’s safe then she delusional. Steve will make certain he has his signature on 2017 and it won’t be you Sandra! Not that you deserve the title of Senator anyway. I only hope that JC sees the light and finds a candidate to unite behind. JC needs to prove to its self that politicians do not rule or lead they SERVE!!

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