Depending on how quickly the state Senate in Trenton operates, next week could be Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos’s final as the Mayor of Kearny. That’s because the state’s Judiciary Committee has announced it has scheduled an interview with Santos for Monday, June 26, in Trenton, where he will undergo questioning to review his qualifications to become the next Hudson County Superior Court judge.
Santos was nominated earlier this month by Gov. Philip D. Murphy, and it was not clear, until today, when his committee review would take place.
Now that the interview has been scheduled, several other as-yet unanswerable questions remain.
First, if he fares well in the interview, and there is no reason to expect otherwise, it is not immediately clear whether the entire Senate will vote on the nomination — or a course of many other nominations before the Senate — before it recesses for the summer at the end of June.
If Santos’s nomination goes before the entire Senate this month and it passes, he would immediately have to resign the Kearny mayoralty, a position he’s held since Jan. 1, 2000.
It is also still possible Santos’s nomination might not be voted upon until the Senate returns from recess in September. If that happens, he will remain mayor until the nomination is put forth by the entire Senate.
Who would become mayor next?
Now here is where things get tricky. We’ll try to explain this as best as we can.
First, if Santos’s appointment goes through before the end of June, the Democratic County Committee would choose three candidates, one of whom would serve until a special election could take place this November. The Town Council would choose the mayor from the list of three and have to vote on whom to “hire.”
Then, there would be yet another special election for the mayoralty in 2024.
Whomever the appointed mayor is — and presuming he or she is from within the governing body, as a current member of the Kearny Town Council, they would be required to relinquish their council seat.
However, if the vote for judge doesn’t go before the Senate until after mid-September, there would be an interim mayor appointed — presumably the council president or the most senior member of the council.
Then there would be a special election in 2024 for mayor, which would be for one year, or the final year of Santos’s term, which expires Dec. 31, 2025.
This would also likely open up one or two seats for the town council.
Whomever the new mayor, it will only be the second of the new millennium.
Santos, in his 1999 victory when he ran for the top spot when he was serving as Second Ward councilman, defeated former Republican Councilman John Leadbeater in the general election, having fended off two challengers in that year’s primary — former Democratic Mayor Peter J. McIntyre, who served one term from 1998 to 1999 and former Democratic First Ward Councilman Edward Callaghan. McIntyre became mayor after he stunned many by beating former Mayor Leo R. Vartan, who was deeply hurt by what was then an extremely unpopular “water deal” the town had made with the City of East Orange and the East Orange Water Commission.
McIntyre never expected to win that election — and it showed during his term. The council was marred by massive chaos, disunity — and at times, things would get so heated at council meetings, people were often seen screaming at elected officials from the floor. Attendees were often ejected from the council chambers. But that all changed after Santos brought immense calm and unity to the council for a majority of his mayoralty.
Prior to 2005, Kearny’s mayoral and council terms were only for two years.
Please check back often for updates as this is an ever-evolving story. As soon as more details emerge, we will share them with you.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.