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Fil-Am independent bet admits uphill climb to Jersey City council

Don Tagala | TFC News Jersey City, New Jersey

Posted at Oct 28 2021 08:26 PM

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Jersey City councilman-at-large Rolando Lavarro is running for reelection.

Back in 2011, Lavarro made history as the first Asian American council member elected in Jersey City. "When I first ran for office, I ran with the idea and the goal of ending the tale of two cities in Jersey City... We had a prospering, growing downtown with all of the investments that were made there to the quality of life and all of the development of construction, and then the rest of the city which had largely been abandoned, forgotten and neglected for far too long," Lavarro noted.

He said this unfinished business is the reason he is seeking a third term in office.

"We had not done nearly enough to bridge the tale of two cities in Jersey City that in fact looking among my kabayans, immigrants, blacks, and Hispanics and others... too many people were still being left behind," Lavarro claimed.

Lavarro first ran under the slate of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. Now, he is running as an independent candidate, citing policy differences with Fulop who is also gunning for reelection. Lavarro acknowledges that without the mayor's campaign machinery, getting a council seat will be an uphill battle.

"I'd rather take the road less traveled and I know it's a tougher road for me but I believe that's important for me to stand up and protect the families and the communities that raised me and made me who I am today."

Lavarro also believes Filipino American voters got his back, the same way they delivered in the last two elections. "There are seven candidates vying for three council seats. I'm probably going to need something close to 15,000 votes and I don't know that there's 15,000 Filipino voters out there," he admitted. "I'm hoping that Filipinos will again come out and deliver those votes."

Lavarro's supporters say they will be knocking on doors and reaching out to voters. Jersey City resident Maricar Taino shared that she had done so in 2016. "I actually walked door-to-door with him and it's a volunteer job that I did in spite [of the fact] that I have three kids... I really feel that he's fighting for us." Another city resident Helen Castillo, for her part, believes it's very important for immigrants to show their strength by voting. "We can be showing to everyone there that we Filipinos, Asians, and immigrants can elect somebody in office without the machinery," Castillo argued.

Early in-person voting is ongoing until October 31, while election day is on November 2.