Confused about politics? 3/15/09

Perhaps the only people who are not confused by this year’s political scene are those who aren’t keeping up with what’s going on.
Hoboken retains its title for the most confusing political scene in Hudson County since it changes so often.
Last week, we got to look at the final lineup of school board candidates, as at least two
independents dropped out. This largely pits two tickets with competing visions against each other, “United for Students” (incumbents) and “Kids First,” to decide the fate of Hoboken’s school children next year. “Kids First” identifies itself as the party of reformers, although the label has become a bit frayed over the last few years with overuse.
Some reformers are connecting the school board election to the reformer civil war currently underway in the May mayoral election between hopefuls Dawn Zimmer and Beth Mason, and will strip the reform label from any mayoral candidate who does not support the whole “Kids First” ticket. Zimmer has already come out publicly in support of that ticket, and Mason had not yet announced her loyalties as of last week. Last spring, a brewing war between Zimmer’s and Mason’s supporters finally became public after a “reform” school board slate lost the April election, and some Zimmer supporters blamed Mason for the defeat because she supported an independent and part of a board slate rather than supporting the full slate.
Aside from Kids First, there is this year’s more traditional ticket, “United for Students,” led by School Board Trustee Frank Raia. They seem to be basking in the fact that the incumbent school board looks good compared to the City Council this year. After a 47 percent tax increase was imposed because the City Council failed to adopt a budget on time, the school board seems fiscally conservative.

On vacation

Mason planned last week to finally unveil her ticket, and it appears that council hopeful Vinnie Addeo decided that the best way he could contribute to the ticket was by taking a three-week vacation.
Perhaps voters would have a better opinion of all the candidates if they just left town until the election is over, after which they can come back and prove just how wrong we were in electing them.
Meanwhile, her ticket saw another change, with Anthony Pasquale replacing his son, Scott, on the ticket. A source claims that someone from an anti-Mason camp called Scott’s boss to inform the company of Scott’s intentions. Showing just how supportive of democracy they are, American corporations have a dim view of their employees running for political office, often mandating that employees seek approval first. Is there any wonder that politics has seen a brain-drain when corporations actively discourage qualified people from running?

Cammarano’s numbers improve

Previously underestimated as a mayoral candidate, Councilman Peter Cammarano’scampaign appears to have gotten a boost. A poll done on his behalf shows that he could end up in a runoff election in June with either Mason or Zimmer.
If so, many so-called reform voters may go with Cammarano rather than vote for the wrong reform candidate.
Cammarano’s big poll boost may be based on the fact that of the three candidates running, he voted against allowing the state to take over the municipal budget, and the inevitable tax increase associated with it. Much of his campaign will likely hammer away on the point that the other two candidates caused Hoboken taxes to rise.
The poll had several aspects, according to Cammarano’s campaign people, who suggest that Mason at this point leads the three candidates, with Zimmer and Cammarano tied for second. But when the question is asked about the state takeover, Cammarano and Mason tie with Zimmer behind, and a large undecided voter base remains from which to draw additional votes.

JC: Manzo could make a runoff after all

As in Hoboken, Jersey City could be decided by which mayoral hopeful has the best council ticket. In Jersey City, all nine council seats are up, not three like in Hoboken.
The Jersey City mayoral race pits a curious group of people against each other this year, including one candidate who has never run for office before, one candidate many believe has run too often, one candidate who has been in office and wants to get back, and the current mayor, whom all the other candidates agree should get dumped.
Some people associated with State Sen. Sandra Cunningham say that Manzo may be able to get into a runoff with incumbent Mayor Jerramiah Healy, because Manzo has a stronger ticket than Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith.
This is a strange change of fortune for Manzo, who in past elections sometimes led the pack early, only to come up short on Election Day.
Until recently, most people assumed Smith would get into the runoff because he would inherit the African-American vote now that Cunningham has decided not to seek the office of mayor.
But last week, we saw a rehashing of racist rhetoric generated by African-Americans against African-American Smith, repeating the same savage behavior inflicted on him during his days as City Council president. It appeared in an African-American newspaper in Jersey City that’s run by political consultants. None of the other candidates for office will claim credit for the abuse, but many supporters are secretly wondering if their candidate can benefit from Smith’s new unpopularity.

A slight correction

Last week’s column inadvertently misnamed Secaucus Public Defender Peter Weiner by calling him Paul Weiner, thus elevating the mayoral hopeful into one of the most powerful associates of state Sen. Ray Lesniak. While Lesniak’s firm does have a contract with the town of Secaucus, it is Peter, not Paul, who is running for mayor.
Unfortunately for Peter, local blogs have since repeated the error.