By Don Tagala, ABS CBN North America Bureau

June 7, 2013

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Rolando Lavarro, the first Filipino-American to win a seat in the Jersey City council will have to prove himself worthy of his constituents’ votes again, in a runoff election on June 11.

In the last May 14 local elections, Steve Fulop won the mayoral contest, beating the incumbent Jerramiah Healy. But while Fulop’s team, that includes Daniel Rivera, Joyce Waterman and Lavarro, got the highest number of votes, it did not receive more than 50% of votes from the entire voting population, hence the need for a second round of elections.

“Everyday we’re knocking on doors, and telling folks to come out and vote again reminding folks ‘coz most folks are unaware that there’s another election June 11,” Lavarro said.

Mayor-Elect Steve Fulop is not Filipino but he is all ears when it comes to issues affecting the Filipino-American community such as the Dream Act tuition fee equity. The 36-year-old mayor even knows how to wear his barong and eat with his bare hands at a Filipino kamayan restaurant.

“The Filipino community in Jersey City was a huge part of the voter turnout,” Fulop said, “I’m looking forward to being a great resource for community going forward.”

In 2011, Lavarro won in an election runoff to become the first Asian, a Filipino at that, to win a seat in the Jersey City council.

After 18 months in office, Lavarro has authored resolutions supporting the immigration overhaul, the Dream Act and tuition fee equity for dreamers. He also proposed the creation of an immigrant affairs commission to help new immigrants in Jersey City integrate and assimilate in their new found home.

“The things that we promise to address, which is certainly our budget and taxes, crime and public safety, making sure our resident feel safe in the streets in our neighborhoods and addressing our quality of life issues, we’re going aim to do all those things immediately,” Lavarro said.

Lavarro and the rest of Team Fulop’s At-Large candidates will now face off Healy’s Team in a rematch on June 11.

Team Fulop is hoping that the Filipino community will once again rise to the occasion and grab the opportunity to empower themselves.

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