A break from the ranks Turner protégé Cabrera runs for county freeholder on Vega’s ticket

For the longest time, the political circle that encases Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner has been as solid as a drum.

No one has dared to venture outside of that close-knit circle and every decision that is made involving the township had to go through the powerful and popular mayor for his eventual seal of approval.

However, that has all recently changed, because long-time Turner ally and colleague Alberto Cabrera decided to break from the ranks and run for the Hudson County Freeholder seat in the seventh district (which includes Weehawken, West New York and Guttenberg) in the upcoming June 5 Democratic primary on the ticket headed by West New York Mayor and state Senate candidate Silverio “Sal” Vega.

Turner is openly supporting the ticket headed by Union City Mayor Brian Stack in the upcoming election that has ripped apart the Hudson County Democratic party by the seams.

Dedicated to Weehawken

The 45-year-old Cabrera, a married father of two boys and the owner of a snack distribution company, said that he was asked by Vega to join his ticket and he gladly accepted.

Cabrera is also the brother-in-law of long-time North Bergen Commissioner Hugo Cabrera, who also serves as that town’s Board of Education secretary.

“Sal Vega said that he had been watching my work in Weehawken for several years and wanted to have someone with my experience on the ticket,” Cabrera said. “He also wanted someone who was bilingual and had experience at the governmental level. He felt like I was the proper candidate and I decided to accept his offer.”

Cabrera was introduced to the public sector by Turner 13 years ago, who first appointed him to the Weehawken planning board and zoning board.

Cabrera once served as the acting chairman of the planning board and served as the chair of the zoning board for the last eight years.

Under Turner’s influence, Cabrera was also appointed to the Weehawken Board of Education a few years ago, when Carmela Silvestri Ehret resigned to become a member of the township council after the death of Councilman Louis Ferullo.

“In my tenure, we accomplished a lot in Weehawken, especially the waterfront development,” Cabrera said. “There were other projects that I was involved with, converting old factories into residential buildings.”

Cabrera said that when he accepted the offer from Vega, he never thought that it would be at the expense of his relationship with Turner.

“I was running for office and I thought it was a great opportunity for Weehawken to regain a seat on the Hudson County Board of Freeholders, something it hasn’t had since [1978], when Frank Pizzuta held the seat,” Cabrera said. “I was raised in Weehawken and have lived here for more than 30 years. I wanted to give back to my community. I figured with great mentors and leaders beside me, I should do just fine.”

Cabrera still considers Turner “a great mentor,” but did not consult with Turner before taking Vega’s offer to run.

“The beautiful thing about America is that we have choices,” Cabrera said. “Mayor Vega approached me and I saw the changes that he could do. He felt that I was a good candidate. It never crossed my mind that I would be getting Mayor Turner angry. I have spoken with Mayor Turner and he’s supporting the Stack ticket. I understand that. He’s been a great mentor to me and he’s done some great things. It’s been a privilege to work with him all these years. My ability to work with him has been wonderful.”

Added Cabrera, “But I’m not running against Mayor Turner. If he’s upset or disappointed, he shouldn’t be. We’re getting the opportunity to bring the freeholder seat back to Weehawken. We’ve never had a voice at the county level. I’m doing that with great pride in Weehawken and he should be happy for me. He got me involved in politics, in key positions with certain boards. I think he has appreciated my loyalty. I’m not running against Turner. I’m running for a county position. It should be viewed as a benefit to Weehawken, a win-win for Weehawken.”

Turner supports Stack

However, that’s not the way Turner sees it.

“I appreciate the kind remarks that Albert has said about me being a mentor,” Turner said. “I did consider Albert as a valuable member of our team. But if he considers me as a mentor, truly considers me that way, then logic says that he should have discussed this matter with me first. This primary election is not about where the Freeholder seat should lie. It’s about who would best represent us in Trenton and in Jersey City.”

Added Turner, “There’s great political change going on in Hudson County, generational and philosophical change. Mayor Stack is putting the needs of the people first and politics and power second. I am and have been a supporter of Brian Stack and his team. I must consider what’s best for the future of Weehawken and who will best represent Weehawken. Albert was recruited to try to best damage the ticket in Weehawken.”

Turner said that he wasn’t angry with Cabrera, but “I certainly am disappointed.”

“I don’t get angry in politics,” Turner said. “He has a right to run. But in my opinion, he has put his personal ambition and needs above the best interest of our residents. I believe the election will take care of itself.”

Cabrera said that he is proud of his contributions to the community, as a board member, as a Cal Ripken baseball coach, and as a volunteer for the local food bank for the homeless. Cabrera said that he is committed to hopefully seeing homelessness in Hudson County come to an end.

“If we reach out to corporations and our elected officials and continue to work, we can see that happen,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera still calls Weehawken his home, where he lives with wife, Pura, and sons Alex, 16, and Andrew, 11.

“I love this community and love this town,” Cabrera said. “It’s like one big family.”

However, the father of that family saw a prodigal son fly from the roost recently.

“I am encouraged with the number of residents who have been wishing me luck,” Cabrera said. “I have told the residents that I am running under the Sal Vega ticket and they’re supporting me.”

It certainly makes the upcoming primary an interesting one in Weehawken.

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or jhague@hudsonreporter.com


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