By Matthew Cunningham

If you haven’t kept up with the Hoboken mayoral race, I don’t blame you. Six candidates — or, if we’re being honest, four front-running candidates — offer similar ideas and almost indistinguishable platforms. Researching the differences between the candidates is exhausting, and might discourage someone who is unsure about the upcoming election.  As someone who has lived in Hoboken for less than two months, I struggled to learn about the candidates, so I’m basing my vote for mayor off information readily available to me. I have neither the experience nor the time to uncover decades of Hoboken political history. Based off my experience within the Hoboken community so far, I’ll focus on the three candidates who, I believe, have the best chance of being the next mayor: Mike DeFusco, Anthony Romano, and Ravi Bhalla.

Mike DeFusco, one of the front-runners, appeals to Hoboken’s liberal demographic by calling himself a “progressive Democrat.” To prove it, he recites words like “inclusive” and “fairness” on his website a few times. Yet also on his website, he wants to “bring a private sector mindset to city government,” which is, traditionally, a conservative value. This conservative mindset is also reflected by his big-business, city council slate comprised of a Wall Street salesperson, a “trading firm” owner, and another salesperson.

DeFusco’s campaign seems to be guided only by his guile, saying whatever he thinks Hoboken wants to hear from him so that he can sway more voters. For example, I can’t even decipher his vision for education, a topic that is important to me. All I know is that he wants to “think big” and that he’ll use “public-private partnerships to create additional funding options” — whatever that means. As someone who respects detailed policy and coherent plans, I’m dissuaded by his stanceless positions. DeFusco markets himself better as a political product — simple enough to be liked by everyone — than as an upholder of Hoboken values. As much as I believe young people should be in politics, DeFusco is not the mayor Hoboken needs.

Anthony Romano and Ravi Bhalla, however, provide years of ample experience. But Romano, like DeFusco, yearns for the mayoral seat so that he can grow his political power. In the upcoming election, you’ll notice that Romano isn’t running in just one race; he’s running in two: the Hudson County freeholder race and the Hoboken mayor race. I respect Romano’s ambition, but he needs to decide whom he wants to help. Hoboken needs a mayor who can dedicate themselves solely to Hoboken; that mayor can’t be Romano.

Bhalla, someone whom I’ve met once before, exhibits a genuine love for the Hoboken community and — and to repeat myself — has a tremendous amount of experience. The New York Times recognized him for his legal advocacy after he suffered a violation of his First Amendment rights. In Hoboken, Bhalla was the leading voice for a second flood pump in northwest Hoboken, he was instrumental in the saving of the Hoboken hospital, and he has improved Hoboken’s bond rating from junk bond status to AA+. The list of his accomplishments only continues, which emphasizes his political prowess and his commitment to the Hoboken community. I believe Bhalla, endorsed by Mayor Dawn Zimmer, can build upon the city’s accomplishments and make Hoboken an even better place.

I look forward to Nov. 7 — election day — and I urge everyone at Stevens to vote. (Keep in mind that this election is for governor, too! Vote Phil Murphy!) Local level politics may seem uninteresting, but it’s what directly impacts how we live and interact with one another. By voting for Ravi Bhalla, our community will become a safer, more prosperous one for all of us.

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