A young, energetic urban mayor reshapes the political landscape and spurs talk of higher office. Six or seven years ago in New Jersey, that description would have applied to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Now it describes Steven Fulop, the ex-Marine and ex-Wall Streeter who has shaken up the status quo in Jersey City and fueled speculation about larger ambitions.
The comparisons between Fulop and Booker, New Jersey's junior U.S. senator, can run to the fanciful. Booker was dubbed a "rock star" mayor for his national media profile; Fulop was portrayed as a rock star in a New York Observer piece that featured a drawing of him as Bruce Springsteen from the "Born In The USA" album cover. (A framed print hangs in Fulop's conference room.)
"They're both young, kind of hip but also kind of dorky in a cute way," said Montclair University political scientist Brigid Harrison. "Stylistically they are a bit different; I think of Steve being very comfortable in one-on-one situations, almost like a Bill Clinton-esque policy wonk, in tune with what's going on on the ground. I haven't seen him engage in the lofty rhetoric we've heard from Booker."
Already Running For Governor
"I would like to see a stop to the antagonizing of the Department of Public Works, the Jersey City Incinerator Authority, the parking authority," he said. "These are all people who live in the city and work here. You can't change everything overnight. You have four years, but unfortunately it seems like he's already running for governor."
Fulop seems unconcerned at the possibility that his reach may occasionally exceed his grasp.
"The nature of public office today is that mayors have an opportunity to shape the dialogue more than they have in the last 20 years," he said. "Jersey City being part of that conversation, which I think we have been, we're punching above our weight, which I think is a good thing for the city."