Between the Lines Republicans? In Hudson County? Really?

Yes, there is a Republican Party in Hudson County – a fact that many voters seem unaware of until the November election rolls around and a slate of unfamiliar names shows up.

Democrats have dominated Hudson County politics for nearly 100 years, creating a perception that Hudson County’s Republican Party does not exist.

“Actually there are more registered Republicans in Hudson County than in any other county in the state,” said Jose Arango, Republican County chairman.

This apparent contradiction has to do with Hudson County’s population density. Yes, there are more Republicans, but the county also has more Democrats per square mile than in any other county in the state as well.

In a year in which political war and rumors of scandal have tainted the county Democratic Party and dominated newspaper headlines, Republicans trudge on in an attempt to take advantage of the situation. This is not to say that Republicans have been immune to scandal. Six months after the resignation of Democratic Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski, Republican Essex County Executive Jim Treffinger faces a similar situation as rumors of scandal have forced him to withdraw his name from the top of this year’s ticket against Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli.

Local Republicans who had sought to hitch their wagon to Treffinger’s powerful political machine find themselves looking elsewhere for inspiration. Even saddled with this, Republicans still hope to provide Hudson County voters with an alternative to those involved in the Democrat meltdown. For underdog Republicans whose own history has had its share of factional battles, the new role as alternative choice seems a refreshing change.

“At this moment, we’re the only alternative voters have,” said last year’s state senatorial candidate Frank MacCormack. “With Democrats spewing hate at each other in the primary, anything can happen in November.”

Over the last decade, former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler was the big obstacle; people love or hate him, causing a split in the party. Without his domination, the party has an unexpected unity.

“We’re united this year like never before,” Arango said, noting that any party dominating the political scene for as long as the Democrats have in Hudson County is bound to create problems. “Entrenched power tends to lead to arrogance. Politicians believe people will vote for them no matter what they do in office.”

Just so that people have an early view of the Republican candidates, here is the list of the county slate: Ira Jersey has the Republican nod for county executive. In the freeholder races, David Solari is running in District 1 (Bayonne), Herberto O’Neill, District 2 (Westside in Jersey City), Alexander Mueller, District 3 (downtown Jersey City), Pierto Davila Cruz, District 4 (Jersey City Heights), Jerry J. Forman, District 5 (Hoboken), Pedro Brea, District 6 (Union City), Kenneth Mickle, District 8 (North Bergen-Secaucus), and Louis S. Lusquino, Jr., District 9 (Kearny-Harrison-Secaucus).

Indictment schedule

Following this week’s indictment of developer, mortgage company owner and political contributor Rene Abreu, are indictments from the North Bergen air conditioning contract investigation and the Robert Janiszewski sting operation close behind? One source said that the North Bergen results are on tap following June’s primary elections, to be followed by the Janiszewski indictments. But then again, sources are always predicting indictments after elections, and they’re often proven wrong.

The Abreu arraignment came more than four years after the FBI raided his office in Guttenberg. A meticulous investigation requires time.

It should be noted that an indictment is not a judgment of guilt or innocence; merely a grand jury’s feeling that there’s enough evidence for a trial.

Who will replace Cunningham as mayor?

Making even more political enemies countywide than most political observers ever imagined possible, Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham’s continuing political defeats have some people speculating who could replace him in three years. A month before the primary to determine if Bernard Hartnett – supported by Cunningham – will get the Democratic nod for county executive, speculation on Cunningham’s future has already begun, with names as diverse as Freeholder Bill O’Dea, Jersey City Councilwoman Mary Donnelly and former Freeholder Lou Manzo mentioned.

School security seizes debate tape

The second of a series of county election debates being taped at the Schools of Technology campus in North Bergen got raided on May 6 when officers from the school security seized the tape. They say that the organizers of the event, a neighborhood association in North Hudson, did not have permission to use the studios. The event which featured incumbent Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons and his challengers, Independent Democrat Thomas Murphy Jr., Carrie Gilliard and other freeholder hopefuls.

Sponsors of the event supposedly neglected to inform the school of the political content of the program. Fitzgibbons said the debate seemed to be unbiased, but would not speculate on additional reasons for the seizure.

The debate – which will not likely be aired on public access channels throughout the county because the tape was swiped – apparently had some revealing moments, including Murphy’s defense of Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham’s positions in the countywide conflict for the heart of the Democratic Party.

Does she live in UC?

In Union City, questions about Mayor Brian Stack’s appointment to the Board of Education, Alicia Morejon, centered on her legal address. As reported in a cover story in last week’s Union City Reporter, some are charging that Morejon is not a legal resident of Union City. She first registered to vote in town only a few weeks ago. The county superintendent of schools has undertaken an investigation. If she’s not a resident, Stack will have to find someone who is.

More on Hoboken…

In an ongoing Hoboken School Board election saga, Fitzgibbons disputed claims that former Mayor Anthony Russo played no political role. Mayor Dave Roberts blasted Russo two weeks ago for behind-the-scenes maneuvering against Roberts’ slate of candidates. Last week, Russo denied any involvement.

This week, Fitzgibbons said, “I was standing beside him in our home ward watching him seeking votes for his candidates. Or was that an actor I saw?”

What’s in a name?

In ancient Egypt, upon the death of a pharaoh, the new pharaoh erased every name in every public space. Since the first of the year, a transformation has been ongoing throughout Hudson County. Without apparent notice by the general public, signs to county institutions and county-run projects and programs have seen the name of besmirched former county exec Robert Janiszewski replaced with that of Bernard Hartnett.

One remarkable detail unnoticed previously was the fact that numerous county vehicles had the name Robert Janiszewski painted on their sides and not the name “Hudson County,” a permanent political advertisement paid for by the taxpayers.

No detail has been overlooked in erasing Janiszewski’s legacy. Recently, during Earth Day celebrations, the Hudson County Improvement Authority gave away pencils made from recycled wood. So as not to waste money apparently, the HCIA simply covered over Janiszewski’s name with a tiny sticker bearing Hartnett’s name. One can only imagine the hours HCIA employees spent with tweezers installing the label, and how easily these labels can be removed after next November’s election, when Hartnett’s name will be erased in favor of Tom DeGise. – Al Sullivan


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group