By LIZ BUTTON
Republican Councilman Peter Jovanovich, a Republican, has gathered the 377 necessary signatures needed to make his independent run for mayor official.
At the beginning of August, the councilman, whose term expires at the end of the year, announced his plans to run against GOP nominee, adversary and fellow Councilman Joe Sack.
On Monday, Jovanovich said he had collected more than 500 signatures, easily surpassing the requirement of the county Board of Elections to run as an independent candidate.
Playing a game of catch-up, a group of 30 bipartisan volunteers consisting of many friends and family worked day and night going door-to-door for 10 consecutive days, according to Jovanovich.
Petitions for independent candidates are due to the Board of Elections by Aug. 20.
More than 2,300 of Rye’s approximately 10,000 registered voters are unaffiliated with any political party.
Jovanovich, who first decided early on against trying to get on the Republican slate for mayor or City Council, then decided against seeking re-election altogether before changing his stance recently, said he considered running as an independent two days after Rye Democrats announced they would not run a mayoral candidate.
While four City Council seats are up for grabs this election cycle, including that of the mayor, Democrats chose to run just two candidates on their slate, Meg Cameron and Shari Punyon.
“I talked to everybody, and I just didn’t get the sense that they were going to make a decision,” Jovanovich said of the Democrats. “I thought they had some other candidates.”
In May, Rye Republicans nominated Sack for mayor and Terry McCartney, current Councilwoman Julie Killian and Kirstin Bucci, a registered Democrat, for seats on the City Council.
Jovanovich and Republican Mayor Douglas French have been at odds with GOP leadership and its mayoral candidate Sack since taking office in 2010.
Sack said he welcomes Jovanovich to the race and was not surprised he was able to get all those signatures in the manner he did, in the short amount of time he did.
“I don’t think it’s a common occurrence for candidates to run in this way, but it’s certainly permissible under the terms [of election law],” Sack, a two-term councilman, said.
Jovanovich would not say when he plans to file his signatures with the Board of Elections. As of Wednesday, Jovanovich told The Rye City Review he had collected more than 600 signatures. It is likely that the signatures on his petitions will be scrutinized in an effort to try and invalidate them, thus knocking him off the general election ballot.
Mayor French said he is glad there will be real competition for the role of the city’s chief public official. Jovanovich also serves as French’s deputy mayor.
“Residents should have a choice, and the candidates should not be decided by a party chairman. It should be decided by the voters,” French said.
French said he thinks the city’s political system by which candidates are nominated by local party chairs is a broken one. City elections should be more like school board elections, he said, where anyone can run and residents vote on ideas, rather than along party lines. The mayor said this system has worked well for other municipalities such as Bronxville and Rye Brook.
Jovanovich made his first political run for Rye City Council, in 2005 as a Republican, but was defeated. He won election in 2009, along with French, on a four-member Republican ticket that swept into office.