What’s up in the new year in politics?

Secaucus, Weehawken, Bayonne and Union City face elections in 2010

Barring the unforeseen or any more arrests, 2010 should be a relatively peaceful year for Hudson County politics.
One big potential political clash seemed to have been derailed in late 2009 when Dr. Felix Roque of West New York came up short on petition signatures that would have allowed a recall election of West New York Mayor Sal Vega in February.
Roque came up with 6,236 signatures, or about 900 more than legally necessary, but over 2,700 were discounted by the town clerk for legal reasons.


For Jersey City, 2010 will be the stage-setter for the 2011 municipal elections.

Recall elections are tough. Hudson County has only had one successful recall election, and if this petition effort could only gather 6,000 signatures, it was likely doomed from the start. Recalls are usually successful when there is overwhelming support.
Roque, who complained since the beginning of the year about a municipal tax increase, may still fight for a recall this year. Otherwise, Vega is up for re-election in 2011.

Will the HCDO challenge Sires?

The recall attempt has other serious implications, especially for U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, the former West New York mayor who is widely believed to have supported the effort. This perception could lead the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), which stands firmly behind Mayor Vega, to find a candidate to oppose Sires in his own Democratic primary in June.
Meanwhile, Sires’ chief of staff, Richard Turner, is up for re-election as mayor of Weehawken this May, but it is rare for him to face opposition in his quiet town.

Stack may have a banner year

The recent arrest of Frank Scarafile for allegedly distributing a bogus flyer featuring the supposed apology of Union City Mayor Brian Stack will likely take the wind out of Scarafile’s potential run against Stack this May. While the charges will likely evaporate, the incident puts Stack – who is already in a powerful position for re-election – beyond the reach of any other contender.
Stack is bolstered by his position as state Senator and his close connection to incoming state Senate Pres. Steve Sweeney, whom Stack backed when other local Dems would not. Look ahead to a lot of state support for Union City initiatives as well as financial support for Stack’s mayoral run in the spring.
Sweeney apparently is setting his sights on a gubernatorial run in 2013, and will rely on Stack as his key political supporter in Hudson County.

Who will lead the Secaucus Democrats?

The Democrats in Secaucus will get their chance to retake control of the Town Council in the November election, now that they lost three council seats and the mayoralty to the Independents this past November. Three other council seats will be up for grabs in November.
Will Democrats rally behind former councilman Richard Kane, or will former councilman Richard Steffens, who served as acting mayor after Mayor Dennis Elwell resigned in 2009, become the new leader of the Democrats?
Or perhaps the new leader of the Democrats will be John Shinnick, the lone remaining Democrat on the Town Council.

Bayonne faces a full election in May

Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith will be heading a ticket in the May municipal election. Three ward seats and two at-large seats are up for grabs. Incumbent at-large councilman Vincent Lo Re has not yet made up his mind whether he will run for re-election, nor has 2nd Ward Councilman John Haleckly – two of the longest serving councilmen in Bayonne history.
Smith will likely tap Barry Kushner to replace Ted Connelly on his ticket in the 1st ward, although Connelly has said he will run for re-election. Third Ward independent councilman Gary La Pelusa has also said he will run.
Outside of John R. Cupo and Leonard Kantor, both of whom have said they will run for mayor, it is unclear who else will oppose Mayor Smith.
In other Bayonne political news, the recent report that Tim Howes – the attorney defending Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone – was just named to Christopher Christie’s transition team suggests that state Senator Sandra Cunningham, Chiappone’s ally, might have called in a favor from Gov.-elect Christie.
Chiappone, who was indicted on charges that he misappropriated money from aides into his personal and private bank accounts, may be attempting to spin this as a political witch hunt against him brought by his enemies with close ties to Gov. Jon Corzine. If Christie buys this, Chiappone might rise again from the political ashes as he has done in the past.

Hoboken special election tests waters for 2011

An election-weary Hoboken will have to endure one more special election in November as newly appointed 4th Ward Councilman Michael Lenz defends his seat against challengers. This is to be the testing ground for the May 2011 Hoboken council elections, when all six ward seats are up. It is expected that if Lenz survives in November, he will be in an even stronger position to win during the regular elections later.
The new year will challenge Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s leadership as she tackles the city budget and financial troubles at the city-backed hospital.
While supporters of Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason claim that in the new year she will attempt to heal the wounds in the reform movement, some Zimmer supporters say too many negative things were said over the last year for any hope of a Zimmer-Mason reunion in 2010.

Special election in Jersey City

For Jersey City, 2010 will be the stage-setter for the 2011 municipal elections, although voters will be faced with at least one special election to fill the seat vacated by Councilman Phil Kenny’s arrest late in 2009. The big question going into the new year will be whether or not Jersey Councilman Marriano Vega will survive mounting charges against him. A resignation or conviction in 2010 would result in a special election for his at-large seat.
The political arrests in 2010 became a political boon for Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop, who seems to have become the standard bearer for reform. The new year will likely see Fulop continue to build his platform for his mayoral run in 2011.

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