Christopher Christie strikes again

Just in time for a critical presidential election, Republican appointed U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie dismantled the Bergen County Democratic Organization by indicting its chairman Joseph Ferriero and his partner on corruption charges.

The move comes at a time when presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama will contest the state in what will likely be another very close election.

Should New Jersey switch back to the Republican column, McCain could afford to lose one of the other ten pivotal states.

New Jersey Republicans have frequently bristled over the loss of control of Bergen County to the Democrats early in this decade. Bergen County has long been a strong hold of Republicans, and one of the critical counties that led to the loss of the state assembly and state governorship in the early 1990s.

Ferriero orchestrated the take over of the county with significant help from Hudson Democrats – some of whom were not pleased by diversion of funds from Hudson County Democratic Organization to help pay for the successful take over. Some estimate that more than $1 million in local campaign donations made their way to Bergen County during the takeover bid.

Christie changed all that with a public announcement in early September of Ferriero’s indictment.

“Bergen County is in play again just in time for the election,” said one political consultant.

Yet perhaps even more significantly, Christie effectively launched his own Republican primary campaign for Governor next year with the indictment. His ability to disable the Bergen County Democrats could generate significant support among Republicans to give Christie the edge in next June’s Republican primary.

Although shock waves rolled through all political circles, no one was really surprised. Federal authorities have been raiding offices for months throughout Hudson and Bergen counties in an attempt to nail down Ferriero’s indictment.

Not all Democrats, however, are upset by the removal of Ferriero from the political field since his rise to power sometimes resulted in conflicts within the Democratic Party.

The charges against Ferriero’s firm Government Grants Consulting LLC, however, raise a larger issue that may plague municipal, county and state entities throughout the state since many governmental organizations hiring firms with political connections to lobby for and obtain grants – both Democratic and Republican – with their fee based on a percentage of the grants obtained.

The new and improved Dennis Elwell?

Mayor Dennis Elwell went on a rampage against a propose sex industry show scheduled to be held in the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus this week.

Morally outraged by the idea that Secaucus should be host to a show designed to promote pornographic materials, Elwell led the charge to have the show relocate, even threatening to file suit.

This, of course, raised some eyebrows among the political people around Hudson County since nearly all of them are aware of Elwell’s annual party at the League of Municipalities Convention each November held in one of the most notorious strip clubs in Atlantic City and for years paid for out of his campaign reelection fund.

“I advise my clients to avoid Elwell’s party in Atlantic City” said one political consultant. “It is not a place where anybody wants to be seen in.”

City officials during the Elwell administration have done much to accommodate a strip club in Secaucus — one allowed to continue to remain open after the municipalities banned them – even walking the club owners (based in Upper Saddle River) through reconstruction permits and environmental cleanup issues.

Sex industry conventions are not new to Secaucus either. For more than a decade from the late 1980s to the late 1990s – shows were held at the one time Meadowlands Hilton Hotel without protest from local officials.

Some believe this new moral outrage by Elwell is yet one more volley in his reelection bid next year where he is expected to face a serious challenge from Councilman Michael Gonnelli.

Bayonne mayoral race may see five contenders shortly Former Bayonne Mayor Richard Rutkowski took out petitions to run for mayor in the special election on Nov. 4, making him the fifth candidate in a winner-take-all contest.

Rutkowski’s move puts a serious crimp in the plans of Police Director Mark Smith and retired municipal judge, Patrick Conaghan, who have been perceived as the frontrunners.

Smith has the best political organization in the race, but he also carries significant baggage having served as police director under the unpopular former mayor Joseph Doria. Conaghan, on the other hand, has been seen as a strong opposition candidate since he ran a close race against Doria two years ago. But a residue of Doria’s negative campaign against Conaghan remains in many voters, leaving them looking for alternatives other than Smith or Conaghan. While City Clerk Robert Sloan and Board of Zoning Board of Adjustment member Raymond Rokicki are credible candidates, nether has a significant organization to take on the frontrunners.

Rutkowski is different. The one time owner of a popular catering hall, Rutkowski is well-liked and has good reputation in office – especially when it comes to making difficult and sometimes unpopular choices, some of which resulted in his losing his reelection bid in the mid-1990s.

Political digs Obama took a hard shot at Republican vice presidential hopeful Gov. Sarah Palin last week after she inflicted several body blows to him.

In a classical use of satire, Obama turned Palin’s rhetoric back on her during a farm belt rally. At the Republican National Convention, Palin said the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull was lipstick. Palin, the pit bull, then went on to blast Obama as a lightweight candidate with no experience in leadership.

To the delight of farmers during a recent rally, Obama struck back with a very old farm joke, saying that you can put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

The joke outraged Republicans, who called it sexist.

On a local level, Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop – riding high on the passage of his pay to play ordinance by the city council – dissed mayor hopeful Bret Schundler, accepting Schundler’s accolades but adding that Schundler should have hoped on the bandwagon from the beginning.

email to Al Sullivan


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group