Between the Lines The ever-shifting politics of Hudson County

Have Freeholder Bill O’Dea and Assemblyman Lou Manzo made up?

Apparently O’Dea and Manzo are on civil terms again after a spat that lasted for almost a year. The old political allies apparently had a falling-out during Manzo’s last mayoral bid, during a multi-candidate special election in 2004.

Lately they have been seen at the same political functions, and apparently weren’t there to throw political daggers at each other.

Manzo, who has shifted from political outsider to one of the stalwarts of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, seems to have settled into a positive role as the assemblyman for the 31st District and for the moment put aside other political aspirations such as becoming Jersey City mayor.

Reports that Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy might become a judge came true after a fashion, but Healy does not have to resign from being mayor. Apparently Healy served as a judge for a talent show at one of the local fund-raising events.

Councilman Bill Gaughan, another one-time aspirant for Jersey City mayor, may seek another route and challenge Assemblyman Vincent Pietro in the 32nd District. This could result in Gaughan leaving his council seat, while continuing on as chief of staff for the county executive. Gaughan recently opened another headquarters on Palisades Avenue near Franklin Street, a storefront in the heart of the Latino neighborhood.

Pat Omelia, a political talk show host who is frequently labeled the 10th Jersey City councilman, has vowed to run for Gaughan’s seat if Gaughan handpicks his replacement. The Secaucus-based Pietro, while an incredibly nice person, is considered vulnerable as an assemblyman, despite his recent re-election. He replaced Anthony Impreveduto in 2004 after election fund irregularities forced Impreveduto to resign.

Possible shifts in positions

With the appointment of Rep. Bob Menendez as the new U.S. senator, other changes in the county might be underway.

Sheriff Joe Cassidy, a longtime Menendez ally, may receive a state job, opening up his seat as part of a peace package with the Jersey City Democratic Organization, allowing Healy or County Executive Tom DeGise to pick the new sheriff. Who this might be depends upon whom you ask, so stayed tuned for updates.

Meanwhile, one of the hardest-working people in Jersey City City Hall is leaving to become the chief of staff for the mayor of Edison. David Donnelly, son of former Jersey City Councilwoman Mary Donnelly, served as special projects manager in Jersey City where he handled huge amounts of detailed information. Replacing him may prove a chore. But Jersey City’s loss is Edison’s gain.

Meanwhile, his mother has stirred up rumors with her move to Bayonne, where she is seen as a potential candidate for council.

Less certain but equally interesting is the possible retirement of Jersey City Police Chief Robert Troy, who already has the necessary 25 years on the job in order to qualify for his pension. Reports suggest that he could take a job in City Hall.

Roberts is part of transition from old to new Hoboken

One possible misconception about the Hoboken mayoral race last May – possibly fostered by observations made in this column – is that Mayor Dave Roberts’ victory was entirely due to the old Hoboken vote. In the city where traditional Hoboken residents and newly arrived residents are part of a dynamic change in the social structure of the city, no candidate can get elected merely by one group or another.

The observation of the mayoral election was this: Old Hoboken is losing ground as new residents take root. Roberts relied heavily on the old Hoboken vote, but not exclusively. He will likely be, however, the last mayor of Hoboken who will lean so heavily on old Hoboken as the power base shifts to newly arriving populations.

Roberts, in a phone interview, agreed that he had won by a combination of old Hoboken and newcomer votes.

“A couple of thousand progressive voters voted for me,” he said.

Roberts attributed his victory to his campaign’s ability to reach out to voters in creative ways such as setting up easels with maps and graphs, showing details of his open space plan.

While his critics claim an ample campaign war chest allowed him to reach the public better, Roberts said part of the reason for the victory was in the fact that his campaign provided details as to how the open space plan would be funded.

“My opposition was always negative,” he said. “They told the public they had an open space plan, but never said how they would pay for it. We did. We said if someone is going to develop in Hoboken, that person will have to contribute to the community.”

Fulop won’t run for Congress

An e-mail from Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop has ended speculation about his becoming a third candidate in the race for the 13th District House of Representatives seat being vacated by Rep. Bob Menendez.

This leaves an open primary fight between Assemblyman and West New York Mayor Albio Sires and Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas – and will likely evolve into a joint primary battle in June that also will pit newly appointed U.S. Senator Bob Menendez against State Sen. Rob Andrews. The strategy will be to run as many candidates against the Menendez-led ticket in order to drain the vast war chest Menendez has acquired.

If you had any doubts about whether Vas will bring his campaign to this side of the oddly shaped district, his appearance at several Christmas events at the end of December dispelled them. Vas has been hobnobbing with people like Joe Cardwell, onetime advisor to former Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham, as well as Jimmy King, former Jersey City Parking Authority director, and even Sandra Cunningham, the former mayor’s widow.

Bayonne gears up for municipal election

With the election for Bayonne mayor and the entire council coming up in May, names are being dropped at a regular basis. One significant question will be whether incumbent At-Large Councilman Anthony Chiappone will run on the ticket for mayoral hopeful Vincent Militello or not. Chiappone has run on his own in the past. He could even switch his objective and run as a first ward candidate rather than at large, although most observers believe Chiappone’s base is across the city, not in one ward.

While Militello has already announced his intention to run for mayor, incumbent Mayor Joseph Doria has not – although it is believed he will do so very soon.

Other names of possible candidates include Tommy Cotter, Brian O’Conner, Agnes Gillespie, Melba Walsh, and even former Councilwoman Mary Jane Desmond – but Desmond is unlikely to run since she holds a significantly important position as assistant county clerk.

Although former Freeholder Barry Dugan’s name also was raised as a possible candidate, he only laughed when asked if he was thinking of becoming a candidate.

Contact Al Sullivan at


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