Many Democratic Committee people in Secaucus never had to defend committee seats, so they were shocked last week when mayoral challenger Peter Weiner filed petitions for a group of candidates who will challenge all of the seats.
Each ward in town is divided into districts, and requires two committee members, a man and a woman, from each political party. The committee people in each party vote on candidates and financing of candidates.
If successful, Weiner could take control of the Democratic Committee out of incumbent Mayor Dennis Elwell’s hands in a year when Elwell is facing two challengers for mayor, first from Weiner in the Democratic Primary in June and possibly Independent Councilman Mike Gonnelli in the general election in November.
Secaucus hasn’t seen such a battle since the 1970s, when Rocco Impreveduto revitalized the Democratic Party in Secaucus and eventually wrested control of the City Council from the Independents under then-Mayor Paul Amico.
Gonnelli, forced by a court ruling to choose between keeping his council seat and his position as fire chief, will be more motivated to unseat Elwell in the November election if Weiner fails to unseat Elwell in the primary.
North Bergen could get more clout
Assemblywoman Joan Quigley said all’s well with the 32nd District and that rumored challenges to her seat in this June’s Democratic primary have been settled.
The big question for state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco will be: when will Hudson County Schools of Technology move from the Jersey City and North Bergen campuses to a combined facility in Secaucus?
Sacco would then have all of the patronage instead of just half.
Polls upon polls upon polls in Hoboken
The results of the most recent political poll taken on behalf of council member Beth Mason shows Mason with a sizable lead over council member Dawn Zimmer, although even Mason supporters believe the race will tighten before the May election.
The poll – which is about the seventh taken among the Hoboken mayoral candidates since December – shows Mason with almost 35 percent of those polled, Zimmer with 16, and Councilman Peter Cammarano and other contenders for mayor well under 10 percent each, with 42 percent of those polled still undecided.
Spin doctors are, of course, trying to cast blame on opposing candidates.
Supporters of Zimmer are claiming that Mason’s council ticket has been handpicked by Councilman Michael Russo.
Mason supporters claim this is simply not true, and not relevant, since many of those who vote as reformers weren’t residents of Hoboken during the years when then-Mayor Anthony Russo (Michael’s father) became the focus of their agitation.
“Russo is just another name,” one prominent Mason person said.
Mason supporters claim the Zimmer council ticket fails to embrace old Hoboken or even the ethnic diversity of the city, which Zimmer supporters claim is not relevant.
“The reform community is going to come behind Zimmer,” one Zimmer supporter said.
The Mason poll suggests that Cammarano may be seen as too closely aligned with Mayor Dave Roberts. Cammarano originally ran for council on a Roberts-backed ticket four years ago, but has since broken with him and heavily criticized him.
A politically connected development company made a few new enemies in Hoboken on Tuesday when it posted billboards on Observer Highway citing the 47 percent tax increase and offering to help Hoboken residents move to Jersey City.
Mayor Roberts, to his credit, lashed back at public officials in Jersey City and Hudson County who had intimate connections to the developer. Roberts asked what would happen if he set up a billboard with Jersey City’s crime statistics.
Ramos wins Democratic chair
State assemblyman and Hoboken Councilman Ruben Ramos was named chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Committee this past Monday, although not without some controversy. Apparently members tried to shut down the meeting at 7 p.m. when it was scheduled, citing a lack of quorum, even though members were still arriving.
Former Chairman Jeff Barnes has decided to step down in order to focus more fully on his work as an architect and his role on the Hoboken Planning Board. Rather than wait until the June election, members were asked to vote on a replacement now.
Ramos’ supporters blasted the “reformer” effort to shut down the meeting, citing their own complaints a few years ago that Mayor Roberts held the committee election at an inconvenient time in order to discourage a reformer vote.
Bayonne mayor won’t get assembly pick
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith was scheduled to meet with Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy this week to discuss why Smith won’t have his pick for state Assembly in the 32nd district.
Smith is supposedly seeking to replace incumbent Anthony Chiappone in the assembly with either Jim Dugan or Jason O’Donnell, but because Healy has made a deal with State Senator Sandra Cunningham, allowing her both picks, Smith is being denied.
Cunningham is supporting Chiappone and either Oren Dabney or Martin Jackson, Bobby Jackson’s son, for the two assembly seats.
Healy, who is running for reelection, needs Cunningham and a strong assembly candidate in Ward F to help him secure African American votes against a strong challenge by L. Harvey Smith, who is running against Smith for mayor.
Cunningham is also apparently seeking to become the next chair person for the Hudson County Democratic Organization, and if she can collect enough votes from the committee, may be in that position after the committee reorganizes in mid-June.
Mayoral hopeful Louis Manzo is expected to unleash an all out attack on Healy shortly, although some see his real hope of winning this year in a lawsuit that would – if the court rules in his favor – ban Healy from running based on the Bradley Beach conviction for obstruction of justice.
“This is an old trick,” one Jersey City observer said. “When ever Manzo’s poll numbers are down, he files a lawsuit.”