Elwell strikes back3/8/09

Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell seems to have come out on top in a dogfight over control of the Town Council now that the Secaucus Democratic Committee has elected Dawn McAdam, giving new meaning to the concept of letting “sleeping dogs lie.”
With McAdam replacing the departing Richard Kane as council member, Elwell gets a pit bull in his war against Councilman Mike Gonnelli at a time when Gonnelli is seeking to unseat Elwell for mayor in the upcoming November election.
While people think of Gonnelli as a reformer, the truth is that Gonnelli was a member of the old guard, who was tossed out of the insider club when he stopped doing Elwell’s bidding.
Part of this conflict is a tit-for-tat battle that started when Gonnelli got named UNICO man of the year when then-Town Administrator Anthony Iacono vied for the honor. Since then, one side has attempted to spite the other, forcing Gonnelli to seek allies outside the old boy’s club.
The Gonnelli camp stuck it to Elwell by supporting Robert Zych, Elwell’s cousin, to replace Kane – while Elwell supported McAdam.
The tied council vote sent the matter back to the Democratic Committee, which elected McAdam interim council person until the November election.
But Elwell has some political problems and faces his toughest election since the old days when he ran as the independent against then-Mayor Anthony Just.
Not only does Elwell face a possible gunfight with Gonnelli, he has to get through a primary challenge by Secaucus Public Defender Paul Weiner.
What is amazing about the Elwell campaign is how many people are deserting him, especially many of the Democrats he inherited when he took over as head of the Democratic Party in Secaucus from former Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto.
Those close to Susan Pirro, who is running for council with Weiner against Elwell, say she was wrongfully blamed in a campaign flyer debacle when she served on the Board of Education.
But the fact is that two of the three Board of Education incumbents who declined to run for reelection in April were Elwell people, and he has scrambled to find new candidates to replace them.
Those supporting Gonnelli in the upcoming election are likely to support Charles Krajewski III, Robin Mottola, and Gary Riebesell for the Board of Education.
Also running are Darryl E. Lewis, Tom Roarty, Tom Troyer, and Joseph Tringali.

Reformers united for school board in Hoboken?

Strangely enough, the expected division of reformers in the Hoboken Board of Education election may not come to pass after all. It happened last year, but this year, the reform candidates appear to be combining forces for a ticket that includes Maureen Sullivan, Theresa Minutillo, and Ruth McAllister.
Also running are Anthony Oland, Frank Raia, Barbara Claveria, Hector Irizarry, and Barbara Martinez.
Those close to Raia claim he will still continue his effort to run for mayor in May.
As of today, Raia faces three very powerful candidates in that race, including council members Peter Cammarano, Beth Mason, and Dawn Zimmer.
Cammarano announced a surprisingly strong ticket for at-large candidates that included former longtime Hoboken Housing Authority member Angel Alicea, school board member Frances Rhodes-Kearns, and recently appointed Planning Board member Michael Novak.
Mason, who was expected to announce her ticket before the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, plans to hold off now that one of her running mates, Scott Pasquale, has dropped out. Mason will likely run with Raul Morales Jr., a Brown University graduate, and Vinnie Addeo, a labor organizer.
The Zimmer ticket, which is still yet to be announced, is rumored to include attorney Ravi Bhalla (who has already announced his run for council), former Councilwoman Carol Marsh, and either former Councilman Tony Soares or Councilwoman Terry LaBruno.

Bosses sticking fingers into Hoboken

Hoboken appears to have become a battleground for Hudson County’s political bosses. State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco is said to be backing Cammarano. State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack is apparently supporting Mason, and reports suggest that Zimmer will get support from a faction of the Hudson County Democratic Organization that may include Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
Reports that Stack wanted Mason to fire political consultant Tom Bartoli apparently are not true. Those close to Cammarano believe that Mason’s ticket, with strong ties to Councilman Michael Russo and old Hoboken, will drive reformers to Zimmer.

Healy is vulnerable, but will he lose?

However, those close to Healy suggest that he’ll be too busy fending off challenges to his own reelection bid in Jersey City this May to lend support to anybody.
More than 70 people seek to become mayor or a city council person in that city, suggesting that people see him as vulnerable. While many are likely testing the waters and will not try to get on the ballot in May, a number of challengers may be trying to exploit his weaknesses.
But money won’t be one of them for Healy, and even if he has some significant negative poll numbers in the city, it will be hard to beat him – even though many who will vote for him in May will likely claim later they didn’t, and those who didn’t will claim they did if they’re looking for a city job.
While challenger Louis Manzo hopes to win the mayoral seat by beating Healy’s ticket in key wards in the city, Healy has a ballot advantage, since he will be bracketed with at-large candidates, not ward candidates, in the election. And his three at-large candidates – incumbent council members Peter Brennan, Willie Flood and Mariano Vega – are very likely to win reelection, carrying Healy back into office with them.
Mayoral hopeful Dan Levin announced that Norrice Raymaker will be running on his slate in Ward C.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.