Since politics is the number one killer sport in Hudson County, signs should be posted warning the unsuspecting about the beginning of the season.
While nearly everybody knew that we should expect serious political clashes this year, few suspected how soon political people would drag out their heavy artillery.
Three out of the four municipal elections in Hudson County in 2009 (Jersey City, Secaucus, Hoboken) are expected to be hotly contested, and if the first two weeks of the year are any indication, the elections may prove even hotter than anyone expected.
The first road kill of the new political season may be Secaucus Councilman Michael Gonnelli. The town’s attorney recommended that he not participate in Town Council meetings until an alleged conflict of interest matter is resolved. Gonnelli is a chief in the Volunteer Fire Department, in contrast to a legal opinion by the state Attorney General’s office that said he should not serve both as city councilman and fire chief at the same time. However, the matter has not yet been decided legally.
Gonnelli has been building a significant power base and is believed on the road to challenging incumbent Mayor Dennis Elwell in November.
Gonnelli is in a tough spot. As with most members of the Fire Department there, he has aspired to become chief for years, and is now faced with a choice as to whether he loves his elected seat as councilman – or even mayor – more.
Jersey City picture gets clearer
Several polls, some of which were done on behalf of state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, show she is heavily favored to win election as mayor of Jersey City if she chooses to run.
This may explain why Mayor Jerramiah Healy, his chief of staff Dominick Pandolfo, and Healy’s political advisor, Carl Czaplicki, are rumored to have met with Cunningham and her advisor, Joe Cardwell, at Society Hill to work out an agreement for her not to run.
Healy reportedly offered Cunningham three council seat picks, including Ward F, which she could win anyway. In turn, she apparently asked that Bayonne Councilman Anthony Chiappone get HCDO support for reelection to the state Assembly this year. Cunningham apparently also asked to choose the second Assembly candidate in the 31st District, where she reigns as state senator.
People in the Healy camp say a deal was worked out, while people in the Cunningham camp say, “No way.”
While three polls done for Cunningham show that she would likely get more than 40 percent of the vote, she would still need a powerful ticket to overcome a strong campaign by Healy and former Assemblyman Louis Manzo.
A Cunningham ticket would likely have Ward F Councilwoman Viola Richardson run as an at-large candidate, while Omar Barber would run in Ward F, and Karen Desoto would run in Ward A.
If Cunningham could latch onto Councilman Steve Fulop as her candidate in Ward E, she could possibly win without a runoff.
Fulop’s poll numbers in Ward E run into 90 percent, making him an asset to any campaign. Since it is unlikely Fulop will ever run with Healy, he could end up on a Cunningham or Manzo ticket.
Healy is expected to announce his reelection bid within a few days and his council slate by Feb. 5. Councilmen Bill Gaughan and Marianno Vega are pretty much certain. The million dollar question is whether or not Healy will run with Councilman Steve Lipski.
Cunningham – if she decides to run – will announce very late, as she did in her last campaign, thus avoiding a heavily negative campaign aimed at her.
Meanwhile, Manzo, the only officially announced candidate so far, unveiled three of his council picks with Jim Carroll in Ward D, Jimmy King in Ward C, and Lori Serrano as an at-large candidate.
State Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith is also expected to run for mayor. While he has not yet announced his slate, some names have floated up as possible candidates, including Paul Catsandonis in Ward B, Frank Scalcione (aka Frank the Pizza Man) the downtown businessman, for either at-large or Ward E, and Ronnie Greco, a Lincoln High School employee, for at-large.
According to Jersey City Clerk Robert Byrne, Jimmy King was the first candidate to file his petitions to run.
Mason poll leaves out some candidates
While Hoboken has yet to get a declared candidate, the big news this week is the poll by Councilwoman Beth Mason.
Done by political heavyweight Hank Sheinkopf, the poll ignored both Councilman Peter Cammarano and Board of Education member Frank Raia in the head-to-head questions.
The poll asked for opinions about all the possible candidates, along with others such as state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack and Rep. Albio Sires.
But it also asked voters only if they would choose Mason, Councilman Michael Russo, or council member Dawn Zimmer in the upcoming election for mayor.
Adding to the mystery of the season, Mason was recently seen meeting with Stack at the Malibu Diner on 14th Street in Hoboken in what was hardly a secret meeting, since news probably reached First Street before they even finished getting coffee.