Five years after the Human Rights Campaign named Trenton the least gay-friendly city in New Jersey, Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora was elected as the first out mayor of the state capital.
“I was in the West Ward at Grace Community Church and this 80-year-old woman, she goes, ‘I can care less what you do in your bedroom. I want these potholes fixed,’” Gusciora told The Trentonian.
Gusciora came out as gay in 2006. As New Jersey’s first out legislator, Gusciora was a key player in establishing civil unions and marriage equality in the state. During his time as assemblyman — a position he's held since 1996 — Gusciora cosponsored a same-sex marriage bill, which was eventually vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The state Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in 2013.
Gusciora was able to win the mayoral race despite an incendiary campaign video posted to Facebook by opponent Paul Perez, who was endorsed by current Mayor Eric Jackson. Gusciora bested Perez by 355 votes.
Gusciora responded to his opponent’s attacks, which were riddled with profanities, by comparing such outbursts to those of Donald Trump and calling Perez unfit for office.
Jackson, who's led Trenton since 2014, was tasked with cleaning up the mess left by predecessor Tony Mack, who was convicted of corruption and sentenced to federal prison. That task will now be left to Gusciora, who is hopeful about moving forward.
“A lot of it is a change in mentality that Trenton’s strength is the residents’ belief that we can succeed and people want to invest in this city and wanted change,” Gusciora told The Trentonian. “I think if we can collectively work together, anything can happen. We can really transform this city ahead.”