NJ county legislator Bill O’Dea officially enters Jersey City mayoral race

William “Bill” O’Dea, a longtime county commissioner for the west side of New Jersey’s Hudson County, kicked off his campaign on Saturday to become Jersey City’s next mayor, as the competition for 2025 has already begun to heat up with a former scandal-ridden governor attempting a comeback bid.

Hundreds of people gathered for O’Dea’s Saturday morning announcement at Lincoln Park.

O’Dea, a Jersey City native who first won a special election to the county’s board of commissioners in 1997, said his record of public service — and vision for a more prosperous and affordable Jersey City — made him well-equipped to be the city’s next mayor.

“I am living proof that every vote counts,” said O’Dea, referencing his razor-thin 1997 win for a seat he has held ever since.

“We the people of Jersey City shall determine our own destiny,” he said. “So today I am proud to announce my candidacy for mayor of Jersey City.”

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop announced in April that he is not seeking reelection to run for governor and potentially replace Gov. Phil Murphy, who is term-limited.

During his campaign launch, O’Dea highlighted his support of affordable housing initiatives like rent control and certain education-related proposals, such as keeping schools open on nights and weekends and free summer camps. He said he was a strong backer of labor unions and would prioritize public safety as mayor, while working to provide “living wage jobs.”

O’Dea previously served as a Jersey City councilmember and currently works as executive director of the Elizabeth Development Company. His formal announcement comes at a pivotal moment for the mayoral race, as former Gov. Jim McGreevey recently kicked off his own bid for mayor, barely a week before O’Dea’s launch.

McGreevey, currently the only other declared candidate in the race, resigned in 2004 in the midst of a sex scandal with a male aide, Golan Cipel, who accused him of sexual harassment. McGreevey denied Cipel’s harassment claims but eventually admitted to an extramarital affair.

As pressure continued to swarm around McGreevey, including corruption allegations surrounding Cipel’s hiring, McGreevey made political history with a resignation speech in which he declared “I am a gay American.”

Several officials have already announced support for McGreevey in the mayor’s race. Among them was Craig Guy, the newly elected Hudson County executive, and the influential State Sen. Brian Stack.

City Councilmember James Solomon is also considering a run for mayor.

While O’Dea has been aligned with the Hudson County Democrats in the past, the county party is likely getting behind McGreevey, despite his only moving to Jersey City in 2015.

But O’Dea has said he’s gone against the odds before. He said on Saturday that he identified as progressive “before we were called progressives,” and that as an elected official he has tried to extend the same “kindness” he learned from his mother.

He closed his remarks with a story about her, whom he said gave a stranger $100 after the strange told her a tragic story about his son.

“My sisters were livid,” O’Dea said, saying the man’s story was hard to believe.

“Our mother shut us all down when she told us: ‘What if it is true?’” O’Dea said through tears. “And if it’s not, how desperate must that man be to make up a story like that?”

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