Meet the 27 candidates vying for your vote in November

Election Day is November 8. Meet all 27 Candidates running for city council and mayor in Trenton.

Over several months the Trenton Journal has interviewed candidates for the "Meet the Candidate" series and have had the opportunity to hear some of them speak at the NAACP/Trenton Journal Candidate forums at Shiloh Baptist Church as they engaged with residents and answered a plethora of questions. We are grateful for the candidates who spoke with us and other media outlets in the city to help us learn more about them and their platform.

The “Meet the Candidates” series was created to give Trentonians the opportunity to become better informed about the candidates before they cast their ballots. It’s critical that your voice be heard when it comes to the electing leaders who are responsible for shaping policies and procedures that will impact our lives for years to come. Nothing changes, if nothing changes!

Here's a complete list of all the certified candidates running for office. The information has been compiled by interviews and research from the candidate's website or Facebook page. Surprisingly there are some candidates running for office with no bio or website. You have until October 18 to register to vote. Stay informed and stay tuned. It's not a game!

East Ward Candidates

Joseph A. Harrison (Ballot number 1)

"A Leader We Can Trust"

Harrison is the current sitting East Ward Council member who was elected in 2018. As of publishing there is no bio available. We will provide you more information once received.

Sonya A. Wilkins (Ballot number 2)

"Leadership for a stronger East Ward"

Wilkins is a native Trentonian who worked as a former aide to Council president Kathy McBride and Trenton Housing Authority Commissioner. Wilkins attended Rutgers University and worked for the city for 27 years. In February, Wilkins was appointed to fill in the unexpired term of Councilman Jerell Blakeley who announced he was moving out of state for a new job. Wilkins told the Trentonian in February, "“I want to say that I love Trenton. I am Trenton. And I’m just a kid from Trenton.”

Ophelia M. Adderly (Ballot number 3)

No photo or bio provided as of publishing.

Northward Candidates

Jennifer Williams (Ballot 1)

Jennifer (Jen) Williams is lifelong Trentonian who grew up in the East Ward. She has lived in North Trenton for over 20 years and has been civically active in many endeavors in the Capital City. Jen is a writer, healthcare professional, former union member, civic activist, small business owner, artist, youth sports coach, and a parent. She further serves her community as a Public Member, for the District Fee Arbitration Committee–Office of Attorney Ethics, State of New Jersey; as an Advisor on the Patient Family Advisory Council for University of Pennsylvania–Princeton Medical Center; and on the Advisory Board for the American Unity Fund. She is also a supporter of the Center for American Women and Politics, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce and Garden State Equality. Jennifer holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Tulane University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from La Salle University and an Intensive Film certificate from New York University.

Merkle Cherry (Ballot 2)

I'm running for North Ward Councilman because I love Trenton and its people and I'm concerned about the future of our great city. I'm asking for voter support in the North Ward to help me win on November 8—making the change we need to return to a focus on meeting residents' needs and interests in the North Ward. If elected, I plan to help restore dignity, mutual respect, and professionalism to the City Council.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, several significant unaddressed concerns impacted North Ward residents’ quality of life—property and violent crime; inadequate police patrols; neighborhood cleanliness; overgrown trees; access to decent, inspected neighborhood housing; and access to local government information and services. I want to use my 33 years as an executive manager in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to address these issues together with North Ward residents and City Hall.

Algernon Ward, Jr. (Ballot 3)

"North Trenton Makes—The World Takes"

Algernon is an active Civil War Reenactor where he uses his musical skill as a bugler. Reenacting has taken him to places that he could never imagine, he even acted in a TV movie. His trumpet-playing, which began in junior high, extended to playing in a local celebrity band called The Meditators that he formed with some friends after high school. The Locust Hill Cemetery Restoration Project on Hart Avenue in East Trenton is a project that Algernon and some local Civil War Reenactors are working on which will include a museum in a building next to the cemetery.

Algernon is the Co-Chairman of the Board of Incorporators of the Trenton Community Credit Union where anyone who lives, works, has a business or is a student in Trenton can become a member. “If we can control our wealth, there’s nothing that can hold us back.” He seeks to represent the North Ward and his focus will include police reform, neighborhood development and crime prevention. Algernon says, “if you have any success in life, give all the glory to God.” Algernon is a widower, the father of two children Aja and George Algernon, and four grandchildren.

Divine Allah (Ballot 4)

"#It's Our Time"

I'm just a servant in the community. I've been here a long time. Born and raised right here in the North Trenton community. [I'm] one of those 70s babies making my way through the 80s coming up into a degree of knowledge and consciousness of myself as a young Black man in the community. I am here now striving to be a better ambassador for those who know that things need to be done in the community.

Southward Candidates

Damian Malave (Ballot 1)

"Together We Can Make a Difference"

It is important for me to honor our heroes protecting and serving our community; but a safer community could be created if there was mutual respect between those who serve (police) and those being served (residents) in Trenton. Respect is a Two-Way Street.

Evangeline Ugorji (Ballot 2)

"Beautifying and uplifting the South Ward"

  • Proud Naturalized Longtime Trenton Native and Resident
  • Former Army Reservist
  • Compassionate Consummate Public Servant and Advocate
  • Community Activist and Civic Organizer
  • Totally Self-Funded

Jenna Kettenburg Figueroa (Ballot 3)

"Trenton Makes Women Like Me"

I am proud to be a native Trentonian, raised on Lamberton Street, and a graduate of Trenton Central High School’s class of 1999.

I went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Administration of Justice, with minors in Communications and Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Caribbean Studies from Rutgers University. After receiving my master’s degree in Criminology from Boston University, I served as an investigator for the State of New Jersey for 18 years. I am currently the Supervisor of Investigations for the Conflict Investigations Unit with the NJ Department of Children and Families. Through my current position, I am a proud member of CWA Local 1038.

When elected, I will bring my experience and critical thinking skills to serve the community I love.

West Ward Candidates

Teska Frisby (Ballot 1)

"She'll Get it Done"

Teska Frisby is an author and an activist running for West Ward City Council. Frisby is also a leader of the local chapter of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Frisby has said that she decided to put her hat in the ring, because she wants to make a change advocating for Trenton as a council member. Frisby aims to lower taxes and curb gun violence in the city if she gets elected.

Atalaya Armstrong (Ballot 2)

"Educate and Legislate, The People's Candidate"

The Trenton Journal recently had the opportunity to tour Trenton's Stuyvesant Avenue with West Ward City Council candidate, Atalaya Armstrong, who grew up near by. "I decided to run for city council because of what I was seeing. A lot of people talk about what's been going on the last three years, but I feel like it's been going on for [longer]. I feel like the people who own homes, like myself, deserve to get the value we pay into this city," the mom of three said. Armstrong received her bachelors degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Social Sciences from Thomas Edison State University. Armstrong currently serves as Chair for Trenton Historic Development Collaborative, and is Chief Steward for Local 2285, AFSCME, an Ambassador for the Trenton Police Department and an At-Large Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Mary Horne (Ballot 3)

"Empowering the West Ward"

No photo, no bio available at time of publishing.

At-Large Candidates

Yazminelly Gonzalez (Ballot 1)

A life long and passionate public servant committed to bringing dignity back to the city. Gonzalez is a teacher at the Trenton Board of Education and Vice President of the Trenton United Family Foundation. Gonzalez said she would like to help develop partnerships with other people to create a unified and thriving city.

Jasi Edwards (Ballot 2)

Jasi Edwards is a native Trentonian who has overcome difficult circumstances to lift herself out of poverty. She understands the way that government and policy work from her years of government service. As the next City Councilperson At-Large, Jasi promises to bring all of this to City Hall, and will work to ensure change for Trenton residents.

Kadja Manuel (Ballot 3)

"For the People, Para La Gente"

I'm running for public office in my hometown of Trenton, New Jersey. My story is a bonafied Trenton success story. I'm a young professional with private, federal, and military experience. I understand and know the business model of success and how a thriving town should look. I know what it means and what it's like to rely on the system, pull myself up from my bootstraps, and persevere when all feels lost and as if no one within the local government supports you. It's evident that Trenton has a dysfunctional government, and I'm the right person to come in and fix it.

Alexander Bethea (Ballot 4)

"The Education Candidate"

Bethea spent 40 years as a school teacher, basketball coach, and vice principal. He is also the former president of the NAACP Trenton Branch and has previously served eight years as an at-large councilman on the Trenton City Council.

Clifton Anderson (Ballot 5)

Clifton Anderson is a businessman, tradesman, and community volunteer who has served on the board of various organizations and committees in the state of New Jersey. As a Trenton resident, Mr. Anderson has operated businesses in Trenton for over a decade. Mr. Anderson is the president of Trenton Brakes Auto Services Center and has served six terms as president of the Mercer County Chapter of the J.O.N.J of New Jersey. He is also serving as the secretary of Fathers and Men United for a Better Trenton. A committed member of the International F&A.M. Masons and Order Of Eastern Star, Mr. Anderson has also served on economic development committees for the NAACP in the city of Trenton. In 2018, the City Council of Trenton elected Mr. Anderson to serve as Commissioner on the Board for the Trenton Housing Authority.

Waldermar Ronquillo (Ballot 6)

Ronquillo is not shy about speaking up when needed. He opposed a 2017 plan in the Trenton public schools that would have essentially segregated immigrant children from various foreign language backgrounds, placing them all at school in the West Ward. He took his opposition all the way to the state government and helped to stop the reorganization.

Taiwanda-Terry Wilson (Ballot 7)

"For, of and by the people"

My Name is Taiwanda “Tai” Terry-Wilson and I am running for Trenton City Council At-large. I am running because I believe that Trenton deserves a good government. It deserves a government that is for the people, by the people. Trentonians deserve a governing body that can make tough choices under tough circumstances with a bleak budget. We need candidates who will maintain professional decorum with peers, residents, and those seeking to do business here while articulating and displaying the standards we expect.

Crystal Feliciano (Ballot 8)

"Envisioning a better Trenton Together!"

"Trenton is in need of strong, honest and effective leadership, ready to do the work necessary to help advance the city forward, I am that candidate and with your help, we can and will be successful," said the Trenton public school teacher and media mogul.

Mike Ranallo (Ballot 9)

Plainly? I believe I can do better. Trenton has been governed by people connected to and obligated to a political establishment that has failed the city for over 30 years. Look around the city and the failure is evident and overwhelming. I am running completely outside of and without obligation to that establishment.

Mayoral Candidates

Cherie Garrette (Ballot 1)

Cherie Garrette has vast experience with business innovation, management of financial resources, and management consultant for specialty contractors and small businesses. Knowledgeable with policies and procedures within various private sectors, municipal, state, and federal governments. Garrette is an alumnus of Trenton Central High School and Rider University undergraduate with a degree in finance.

Reed Gusciora (Ballot 2)

Reed Gusciora (born March 27, 1960) was sworn in as the 49th mayor of the City of Trenton on July 1st, 2018. Prior to becoming Mayor, he served in the New Jersey General Assembly since 1996, representing the 15th Legislative District, which includes portions of Mercer and Hunterdon Counties. In the Assembly, Gusciora was Deputy Majority Leader and, over the course of his tenure, served as Chair of the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development, Environment and Solid Waste, and Regulatory Oversight and Federal Relations Committees.

Robin Vaughn (Ballot 3)

"Fighting for Trenton, Fighting for Trentonians"

I am a daughter of Trenton. I was born in Trenton. Helene Fuld Hospital. My family made Trenton their home since my maternal grandparents arrived here from Jim Crow South in 1917 and my paternal grandparents in 1925. Both settled in East Trenton, Mulberry Street, and Walnut Avenue respectively. I am invested and vested in Trenton. I am fighting for Trenton. I am fighting for Trentonians. I will always advocate having the best interests of Trenton in mind by championing policies that prioritize Trentonians.

Kathy McBride (Ballot 4)

"Your Vote Our Voice"

Kathy McBride has been active in Trenton community relations for over three decades, including serving as a two-term Councilwoman-At-Large, and the first female City Council President. Kathy is a tough compassionate leader who promotes government transparency, bringing honesty and integrity to the legislative body, and working hard for the betterment of all Trenton residents.

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