Battle for chairmanship of the HCDO


Perhaps the most interesting event that will take place in the next few months has little direct connection to an elected public office, but a behind-the-scenes battle for control of the powerful Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who currently holds the chairmanship, would like to keep it for another year. But some believe that County Executive Tom DeGise would also like to be chairman in order to bolster his reelection chances in the June, 2011 Democratic primary and the November, 2011 election. The chairman would decide which candidates will get Democratic support in the primary, and in Hudson County, being on the Democratic line pretty much guarantees election in November.
The year 2011 is being called “the Super Bowl” of Hudson County elections since so many seats are up for grabs at one time, including state Senate, state Assembly, county executive and freeholders.
The problem is that Healy and DeGise are not alone in coveting the HCDO chairmanship. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham may also vie for the lucrative spot, for much the same reason DeGise wants it, since she enraged DeGise by using her office to block his appointment as a trustee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. As chair, she could block a move by DeGise to unseat her in 2011.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who held the seat while he was a member of the House of Representatives, may want it back, part of a move to consolidate his power base. His close associate, attorney Donald Scarinci, has reportedly been meeting with State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, hoping to get Stack’s support.
Menendez may see Stack as the only viable Democrat left in Hudson County with an untarnished reputation, who will be able to sit down with other state-level power brokers. While state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco is seen as powerful, he is also seen as inwardly focused, worried more about his own base than dealing on a state level.
The political scandals of last summer have created a bad perception on state level for political people coming out of Hudson County, and Stack, who recently was exonerated by a state ethics panel, seems to be one of the few here whom state politicos would be willing to sit down with comfortably.
“Stack is in his 40s can win over a lot of young Turks,” one local political observer said. “He should be able to create a relationship with [young Jersey City Councilman] Steve Fulop.”
The Record of Hackensack recently named Fulop one of the 10 top figures to watch in the state.
“And he is only the councilman in Ward E, and yet he’s seen state wide as one of the leaders of the reform movement here,” this source said.
Although some in the Healy camp are sending out feelers that he will be running for re-election as mayor in 2013, some knowledgeable political observers believe that Healy will not run and that the race for mayor will include Fulop, former Assembly candidate Sean Connors, downtown activist Dan Levin, and a handful of others.
Ironically, a Fulop-Connors conflict would also involve two very seasoned political figures, Hudson County political consultant Tom Bartolli behind Fulop and former Jersey City Mayor Jerry McCann behind Connors.

A thoughtful Zimmer?

Newly elected Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer appears to be taking a careful appraisal of the situation she has inherited as mayor, and she is apparently very deliberate and does not make decisions without studying the details closely. Critics claim she is moving too slowly, but defenders say her careful approach will keep Hoboken from getting into any more messes, especially regarding the city budget.
But she shouldn’t wait too long, since 2011 will also be an election year that could wrestle control of the council out of her hands. Six of the nine council seats will be up for election. While she can count on five votes on the nine member council until then, she could lose this advantage when the ward seats are decided in May 2011. Her recent decision to let City Clerk James Farina serve as acting mayor for several days while she went on vacation, may have been a move to bolster support for her administration among long-time Hoboken residents.

Will Chiappone run for mayor of Bayonne?

Bayonne will hold an election for mayor and council in May, and so far, only two candidates have expressed interest in running against incumbent Mayor Mark Smith, who with his substantial political war chest is seen as the clear frontrunner. This could change if Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone decides to throw his hat into the ring.
Although Chiappone is currently under a cloud because he and his wife were indicted in October for allegedly misdirecting assembly aides checks into his political and personal bank accounts, the appoint of Tim Haus – Chiappone’s defense attorney – to the transition team for Gov. Chris Christie could suggest that a deal has been made that would have these charges dropped.
If this comes about, Chiappone would like see an influx of funding from Union County state Sen. Ray Lesniak and others to help secure the seat – Lesniak and Christie both would benefit from the demolition of the Bayonne Bridge and the expected flood of container ships travelling past Bayonne into Ports Newark and Elizabeth. The ports are in Lesniak’s district, and helping the ports has been a Republican platform.

Higgins of the HCIA dies at 62

Last month saw the passing of Pete Higgins, a councilman in Harrison, and Harrison’s representative to the Hudson County Improvement Authority. Higgins, who died at 62, was an aide to Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough, and is credited with helping push ahead Harrison’s massive redevelopment along the Passaic River.

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