Anyone who thinks state Sen. Sandra Cunningham will support anyone other than incumbent Jersey City Mayor Jerammiah Healy for the upcoming mayoral race in that city is out of their mind.
While Cunningham may be meeting with alternative candidates, the math is simple: Healy as mayor and the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization has something in the way of patronage and other things to offer, while alternative candidates have only promises.
While Cunningham may flirt with other candidates the way she did with Union City Mayor Brian Stack two years ago, she is a very practical gal. She not only knows on which side her bread is buttered, but knows which candidate in the upcoming municipal election has the butter to do it with.
Healy is being challenged by Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, former Assemblyman Louis Manzo, and community activist Dan Levin, and each candidate knows Healy is vulnerable on issues like taxes and the upsurge in violent crime.
But for Cunningham, who is seeking to secure two choices for Assembly seats in the June Democratic primary as well as several choices for City Council in the Jersey City municipal election in May, no one other than Healy can help her – and Healy knows this.
Although a powerful vote-getter in her own right, Cunningham cannot get two Assembly candidates elected if she is opposed by the HCDO. And regardless of the rumors that she might back Manzo, she won’t. She has too much to lose.
Manzo, on the other hand, has recently learned how easily he can lose support from potential council candidates who previously committed to him, as he struggles to find new ones to run in key wards.
Manzo must rely on building a coalition of candidates who are not beholden to Jersey City or Hudson County for patronage, and they are becoming a nearly extinct breed. Those Manzo has on his ticket, such as Jimmy King and Jim Carroll, are very viable. Most political observers believe King will be elected to the City Council, and that Carroll will give incumbent Bill Gaughan a tough time.
Betty Outlaw is expected to pose a serious challenge for one of the council’s three at-large seats, possibly unseating Peter Brennan. But council incumbents Willie Flood and Viola Richardson are seen as nearly invincible in their council races.
Healy, of course, has made some serious enemies, as a recent meeting in Bayonne suggests, with newly-elected Mayor Mark Smith griping about Healy to Rep. Albio Sires, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, and state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
While the HCDO would love to get rid of Assemblyman and Bayonne Councilman Anthony Chiappone, part of the deal with Cunningham would protect Chiappone and would give the other seat to a Jersey City politico, leaving Smith without a say as to who represents Bayonne in the state Assembly.
Chiappone actively worked against Smith’s election in November.
Turner and Sires are upset with Healy because Healy has been offering Sires’ Congressional seat to other people.
Sacco is possibly upset by the report that Healy is considering giving Sacco ally Assemblywoman Joan Quigley’s seat in the 32nd District to Gaughan.
What a mess in Hoboken
Hoboken, however, remains the most curious mayoral race, since nearly everyone involved believes there has to be a runoff election.
Several polls suggest that Councilwoman Beth Mason is the front runner, although she hasn’t declared yet.
A source says that the most recent poll, which was conducted on behalf of Councilman Michael Russo, shows Mason leading the pack with about 26 percent, Russo and Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer at about 16 percent, and Board of Education Trustee Frank Raia with 11 percent.
The poll showed that 24 percent were undecided, and is perhaps the reason Councilman Peter Cammarano – not included in the poll – declared for mayor this past Thursday.
Cammarano supporters believe he was deliberately left out of the last batch of polls in order to discourage him from running, and to confuse voters into thinking he could not win if he did. He apparently intends to prove them wrong and to put pressure on the HCDO to back him instead of Zimmer.
Recently, Cammarano people met at the Malibu Diner in Hoboken to discus possible council candidates – although it is unlikely that Municipal Judge Kimberly Glatt will leave the bench to run on his ticket.
Some reports suggest that Russo might not run for mayor after all, and that Raia, who wants to run for mayor, could turn his attentions to seeking reelection to the school board instead.
Zimmer supporters are hoping to use the school board election as a springboard for a reformer victory in the municipal election, since the pending school board reform ticket is intimately involved with the Zimmer camp. Cammarano’s people, however, say Mason would be foolish to allow Zimmer to field an uncontested reform school board ticket, and that she will likely field additional reform candidates for the school board in order to help keep Zimmer’s reform slate from dominating the school election.
Unlike previous municipal elections, this year’s race for mayor and at-large council seats is all about taxes and the economy, and the ticket that can best convince people that they can cure the city’s fiscal woes will win.
At this point, the race pits three mayoral candidates: Mason, Zimmer, and Cammarano. Most observers believe a runoff election is unavoidable. Cammarano and Zimmer have the foot soldiers to get out the vote, but Mason has the advantage in finances.
No one has yet announced their council slates, leading many to speculate as to whether any candidate can field a full slate. All three candidates claim they are selecting from a number of potential candidates.
Al Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.