Is the next generation of politics on its way? 1/25/09

With the inauguration of Barack Obama as president, some people believe a change in political generations has taken place, ending an era on a national level that began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Such changes of political power have occurred over the years in Hudson County as well, although many locals believe that for the last 20 years, partly due to cynicism about politics generated during the 1960s, many young people were discouraged from stepping into the shoes of the previous generation.
Nicholas Chiaravalloti of Bayonne recently said many people simply stayed away from politics, leaving older political people to hold on longer.
Over the last few years, however, young people appear to be regaining their desire to get involved, with Obama serving as one of the prime examples of the next generation.
People like Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop, State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Bayonne Councilman Gary LaPelusa, Hoboken council members Beth Mason, Dawn Zimmer, Michael Russo, Peter Cunningham, and Peter Cammarano, and Secaucus council members John Shinnick and Michael Gonnelli have made up a new generation of leaders. There are also up-and-coming future political people such as Bayonne’s young Jim Dugan – rumored as a possible state Assembly candidate – and Jason O’Donnell, chair of the Bayonne Democratic Committee, not to mention council candidates in Jersey City like Jim Carroll and Sean Connors. They may bring youth into seats that have been formerly dominated by people entrenched in the local political scenes since the 1980s.
Even Chiaravalloti – who is rumored to be a possible candidate for state Assembly (but won’t likely be) – comes from a new generation of leaders.
For some, Obama’s rise to the nation’s highest office is simply national recognition of a trend already taking place locally, as the elder statesmen who have held out through the cynical years can finally hand over the reins of power to the willing and perhaps capable hands of a new generation.

Oh well, back to the political war

Unfortunately for Hudson County, the swearing-in of a new president marks the beginning of a tough year in politics, as local Democrats – who put aside their personal agendas to get a Democratic president elected – return to the battlefield.
As it currently stands in Hoboken, there are four frontrunners in the race for mayor – council members Beth Mason, Peter Cammarano and Dawn Zimmer,and school board trustee Frank Raia.
While Councilman Michael Russo and incumbent Mayor Dave Roberts could be possible candidates – along with a host of other people whose names are being dropped like confetti – Roberts probably won’t run, and Russo may not be able to raise the funds to run.
Last year, Russo and Raia teamed up with the hopes of developing some kind of ticket for the upcoming May election. The problem is that both men wanted to run for mayor, and since Raia owns the checkbook, Russo may be left out in the cold.
Some loyalists for both men were upset with the unholy marriage in the first place, and perhaps felt betrayed by the old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows, even when it comes to former rivals. Supporters of Cammarano’s mayoral bid hope to stoke the fires of this dissatisfaction by luring some of these Raia and Russo people into the Cammarano camp.
One prominent reformer has ill predictions for the election, saying that he sees little hope for a reform mayoral candidate’s becoming mayor unless the reform movement as a whole gets behind either Mason or Zimmer, an unlikely scenario.
The Mason camp took a poll last week, which opponents claim was more a campaign stunt than a legitimate measure of where Mason stands. Although Mason supporters claim the poll seems to indicate that Mason has a commanding lead over all other candidates, they have not released the poll’s numbers yet.
Cammarano supporters, however, claim Mason is trying to downplay Cammarano as “too far behind” to be considered a contender, when he may well be the frontrunner. The Mason poll left Cammarano and Roberts out of the questions.
The big challenge for all the mayoral candidates will be getting a slate of qualified candidates for the three at-large council seats. Each side claims to have slates, but these names are among the best kept secrets of the still-young campaign. But there are candidates out there in search of a ticket, such as the recently announced Ravinder Bhalla, and hopefuls such as former council candidate Scott Delea.

Hot race in Jersey City

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy is scheduled to declare his bid for reelection this week, kicking off a well-funded campaign that will likely become a serious dogfight by May.
Although State Sen. Sandra Cunningham has put out a poll to gauge her support for mayor, most people believe she will not run, leaving the race to Healy, Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, former Assemblyman Louis Manzo, and a few other weaker candidates. With Healy and Manzo at each other’s throats, it may be possible for Smith to slip into the office, although this perception changes depending on whom you talk to.
Former Mayor Bret Schundler’s withdrawal from the mayoral race may have Councilman Steve Fulop kicking himself for withdrawing too soon.
Reports that Councilman Steve Lipski is being cast off the Healy ticket may be exaggerated if the reaction of Healy’s campaign organizer Carl Czaplicki is any indication. Czaplicki discovered Cunningham’s chief of staff Joe Cardwell in deep discussion with Lipski at a recent Lipski fundraiser.
Poll numbers for Healy in Ward C are very bad, knowledgeable sources say, suggesting that Healy might still need Lipski to help him there. The problem is, so many people have predicted Lipski’s political doom that he is apparently seeking his own path to reelection.
Yet he appears to have strong support among his peers, since more than 100 people paid $500 for tickets to his event, and notables included Shelly Skinner, Steve Fulop, Freeholders Jeff Dublin and Eliu Rivera, and former Hudson County Sheriff Joe Cassidy.