The Repulicans’ turn

As the national Republicans hold their convention in Minnesota, local candidates for 2009 appear to be making moves.

Former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler has been combing the state seeking support for his bid to regain the seat as mayor.

Conventional wisdom suggests that he will need to hook up with one of the prominent Republican candidates in next year’s Republican primary for New Jersey governor in order to trade support.

The two most likely candidates would be Steve Lonegan and U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, both of whom could bring Schundler the revenue needed to run against the heavy war chest of incumbent Mayor Jerramiah Healy.

Although the Jersey City municipal elections are supposed to be non-partisan, this is largely a fiction, since Healy serves as chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization and can rely on strong support from the organization and from other mayors connected with the HCDO.

While Schundler and Lonegan have had political differences in the past, their philosophies are very similar, and would be a natural fit. But Christie’s powerful anti-corruption campaign since becoming U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in 2001 makes him a strong partner in Jersey City and Hudson County, where he is likely to win more support than any other possible Republican candidate.

Is Christie running?

With his term as U.S. Attorney likely to end with the exit of President George W. Bush, Christie, a former Morris County freeholder, is reportedly reaching out of high-profile campaign teams – suggesting that he is already in primary mode for next June.

Meanwhile Jersey City mayoral hopeful Louis Manzo has apparently kicked off his campaign by hiring political guru Steve Kush. A series of television ads are scheduled to begin shortly (most likely right after the presidential election results are in). But the Manzo campaign may do most of its damage with a possible lawsuit. Manzo is seeking an opinion on whether or not Healy’s conviction in the Bradley Beach fracas with police requires Healy to resign as mayor.

At the moment, Manzo, Schundler, L. Harvey Smith, and Daniel Levin, founder and past president of Civic JC, a citywide good government organization, are the most prominent names for a possible challenge to Healy.

Many people are waiting to see what Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop and state Sen. Sandra Cunningham will do.

If Manzo’s lawsuit removes Healy, expect many more people to leap into next May’s race.

Meanwhile potential council candidates in Jersey City are weighing their options. Sean Connors, who is expected to run for council in Ward D against incumbent Councilman Bill Gaughan, said he has met with Schundler and others, but is currently keeping his options open.

Schundler has been making the rounds throughout Jersey City, showing up even for a Fulop fundraiser in late August as well as the Polish Festival, where he told the crowd how much he loves the Polish and how he went to Poland just prior to last Christmas.

Healy didn’t attend the Polish Festival, but he had a good excuse. He was in Denver as a delegate for Democratic Presidential hopeful Barrack Obama.

Celebrations were widespread around Hudson County to hear Obama’s acceptance speech, and while Healy could not physically hang out at the Astor Bar – his favorite watering hole – he did call up to report from Denver. He was suffering from a head cold. But the people in the bar and the 100 or so watching the Democratic convention on a TV set posted in the parking lot didn’t mind. Joe Conte acted as translator, repeating Healy’s reports.

Freeholder Chairman Jeff Dublin and Jersey City Councilmen Peter Brennan and Steve Lipski did their best to fill in for Healy.

Shinnick still sought after

Despite recent bad press, Secaucus Councilman John Shinnick seems to be generating a lot of interest. Rumors say that people have been offering him jobs. While he didn’t confirm or deny the possibility of his moving from Hudson County Community College, insiders claim he has been offered a job as head of maintenance and security at the Hudson County Schools of Technology, a group of county public high schools. If that isn’t enough, others are suggesting he might be considered as a possible replacement for retiring Hudson County Finance Director Wade Frazee. Still other reports suggest that Shinnick might be offers the job as Secaucus Board of Education finance director. Then, we get the usual report that Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell may step aside next spring to allow Shinnick to run in the primary for mayor instead. Shinnick is a councilman in that town.

And in Hoboken…

The municipal race in Hoboken is, as usual, a real mess.

Councilman Peter Cammarano appears to be leading the pack of potential candidates to challenge Mayor Dave Roberts.

Cammarano, who has been making public appearances in front of diverse groups including the recent gay pride festival in Jersey City, appears to be on the verge of having a full ticket already set – which reportedly includes a candidate from one of the reform factions.

This leaves some serious questions on the table for Council members Beth Mason and Michael Russo, as well as rumored mayoral hopeful Frank Raia.

Will they combine forces to counter Cammarano, or will each go their separate ways? Only time will tell.

email to Al Sullivan

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