If you’re going to hold a secret meeting, you wouldn’t likely hold it in the window seat of one of the most popular political hangouts in Hoboken.
This axiom suggests that the meeting at the Elysian Café in Hoboken on Monday night among State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Rep. Albio Sires, and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner no accident, and was perhaps a message to several political entities to stop spreading rumors about them.
Political opportunists apparently have been trying to take advantage of friction between Stack and Sires over the last few months by spreading rumors about it. While insiders claim the friction still exists, the very public meeting between the three of them at dinnertime Monday may have been designed to show everyone that they are still talking.
Meeting in Hoboken also has significant relevance, since Sires and Stack are likely to play some role in the upcoming May election for Hoboken mayor and three at-large council seats.
Council members Beth Mason and Michael Russo appear to be seeking Stack’s support to help counter Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) support, which could go to Council members Dawn Zimmer or Peter Cammarano.
“Sires and Stack wanted to be seen, or they would never have gone to the Elysian,” said one long-time political observer. “Bruce Walter [former Union City mayor] used to hold secret meetings in an Englewood Cliffs diner on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m.”
Sires, too, may have a motive for demonstrating a still-civil relationship with Stack, since reports suggest the HCDO recently offered Sires’ Congressional seat to Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop if he would not run against Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy in the upcoming municipal elections there.
Last month, Fulop announced that he would seek re-election to his council seat instead of running for mayor.
“Stack is probably telling everybody that he may not be in Sires’ camp, but he’s still talking to him,” the observer said.
Recalls are difficult
Another observer of the scene suggests that Sires, Stack, and Turner may also be talking about the recent announcement by Dr. Felix E. Roque that he wants to recall West New York Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega.
Sires, of course, knows all about recalls since he led a similar revolt in West New York while a commissioner there in the 1990s. Sires’ effort came within a few hundred votes of dumping then-Mayor Anthony Defino from office. Very few recall elections get off the ground, because residents get scared of retribution.
“It’s tough to put a recall together,” said one person with intimate knowledge of Sires’ effort. “You have to get people to put their names on a petition, so that the person you’re trying to run out of office knows exactly who you are.”
Will Sandy run or not?
Speaking of secret meetings, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham has been seen several times on Sunday mornings at the Coach House Diner in North Bergen, suggesting that she may be meeting with North Hudson officials – perhaps Stack or even state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco – regarding a run for mayor of Jersey City against Healy.
Healy apparently is concerned about her entering the race, since she has significantly strong support in southern Jersey City.
Behind the scenes last week, Healy worked to have Freeholder Jeff Dublin reappointed as freeholder chairman in order to ward off a possible Cunningham challenge. Dublin lost that battle. Healy, as chairman of the HCDO, has other concerns, since there is a push in Bayonne to unseat Cunningham’s ally, Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone.
Several key people say Cunningham isn’t a sure thing, especially if someone like Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith runs for mayor as well.
“The secret for an African-American to win in Jersey City is to get the whole African-American community behind one candidate,” a Jersey City long-time political figure said. “If you split the vote, then a white candidate can win. Even with the whole African-American community behind a candidate, you would still need white support. This is something Willie Flood has known for years. In fact, Willie Flood (the current County Registrar) is the best politician in Hudson County. She knows how to play all the sides to get what she wants.”
Meanwhile, a recent appearance by Former Assemblyman Louis Manzo at the Jimmy King Civic Association suggests a possible ticket in the works. Manzo and King were joined by Jersey City Councilman Fulop and council hopeful Sean Connors.
Connors’ petition forms have been appearing on the doorsteps of houses throughout Jersey City Heights. He said he is getting a very favorable reaction in his bid to unseat incumbent Councilman Bill Gaughan.
Everyone is holding their breath to learn if Councilman Steve Lipski will be on the Healy ticket or not.
Elwell believes he will prevail
In Secaucus, Mayor Dennis Elwell said he is taking seriously a primary challenge by Secaucus Public Defender Paul Weiner.
While Elwell is confident he can win against the relative newcomer, he also has a clear memory of how he pulled off a similar coup in the 1999 Democratic primary when he unseated then-Mayor Anthony Just.
If Elwell succeeds in beating off the Weiner challenge, he then faces an even bigger threat posed by Secaucus Councilman Mike Gonnelli.
“I know this is the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my political career,” Elwell said. “But I believe I will prevail.”