Since 1998 when he was first elected to the City Council in Bayonne, Anthony Chiappone has been a thorn in the side of the administration, and somehow managed to stay one step ahead of his opponents. But over the last year, the political machine behind Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith managed to box Chiappone into a corner, forcing him to make bad choice after bad choice until last week, when his political career ended with his pleading guilty to a third degree crime.
But the real salt in Chiappone’s wound may be the person who will replace him.
Although several names have been thrown out, the most likely to be the next state Assemblyman from the 31st District will be Bayonne Municipal Services Director and Chairman of the Bayonne Democratic Party Jason O’Donnell – the man most famous around the state for having refused to take a bribe from developer Solomon Dwek in last year’s federal sting operation.
The 31st District includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City.
Other possible contenders for Chiappone’s seat include Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority Chairman Chris Patella, a close personal friend of Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan. Reports suggest that Patella might have been willing to serve as a caretaker of the seat until the special election, just to be able to serve with his friend.
Less likely would be former Jersey City Councilman Bob Cavanaugh, a strong supporter of Smith since moving to Bayonne, but with too many private contracts to serve. Another possible choice is also from Jersey City, former councilwoman Mary Spinello.
The most serious contender for the seat is a former aide to Mayor Joseph Doria, James Dugan, who seems to have built support from state Sen. Sandra Cunningham and others. Dugan has become a local civil leader through the Bayonne Communication Action League and has gotten involved with many of local organizations over the last few years.
While Cunningham is rumored to oppose O’Donnell, she may not have the committee clout to stop his appointment. O’Donnell can count on almost complete support of the Bayonne committee votes, while the rest of the votes, although more numerous than in Bayonne, are split among numerous political entities, and Cunningham would need to get them together to oppose O’Donnell.
Yet the real decision is Smith’s. If he decides to go with Dugan over O’Donnell, the committee votes in Bayonne and Jersey City will likely follow suit.
But if there are any ill feelings between Mayor Smith and Cunningham, the recent Hudson County Democratic Organization reorganization meeting did not show it. Sandra was one of those people who cheered Smith’s appointment as the new chairman, suggesting that there may well be peace in the 31st District, despite Cunningham’s loss of her one time strong supporter, Chiappone.
The question is: when will Chiappone vacate his seat? He is under the impression he does not have to leave until he is sentenced, which he believes will happen on Sept. 10.
But other legal opinions suggest that he must resign when he pleads, and that sentencing must take place with 45 days.
Legislative services in Trenton said the seat is not officially vacated until Chiappone submits a letter of resignation.
Iacono fires Scarinci again?
Back when U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez was in the House of Representatives, then-Secaucus Town Administrator Anthony Iacono riled him by removing Menendez’s close friend, Donald Scarinci, as the town attorney in Secaucus.
“It was a matter of saving money,” Iacono said this week, after he repeated the act as city administrator in Passaic.
The first time was bad enough to cause a confrontation between Menendez and then-Mayor Dennis Elwell. Menendez supposedly demanded Scarinci be reinstated and Iacono fired.
But now, even with Menendez serving as a powerful U.S. senator, Iacono struck again, saying that he put out the job for bid and the City Council is expected to award the legal work to Hoboken’s Florio and Kenny firm instead.
“Scarinci’s was making anywhere from $400,000 to $800,000 a year here. We’re going to reduce that significantly,” Iacono said.
Who is to blame for Fulop video?
Councilman Steve Fulop is apparently livid over a video that was posted on the internet which cut-and-pasted his face onto a dancing woman from a political affair originally hosted by Jake Stuiver.
While Fulop may not know whom to blame for the video, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer may feel the backlash. There is a perception being promoted that Zimmer camp may be less friendly with the city’s neighbors, like Jersey City. (Fulop recently rejected an idea floated by Zimmer’s administration to move the Hoboken public works garage to downtown Jersey City). The perception may be the usual suspects trying to cause trouble for Zimmer by stirring up things among other mayors, but it could play into the 4th Ward race in November’s special election.
Redistricting could hurt Hudson County
Not a lot of people are talking about it, but a few brave souls in Hudson County are wondering about the impact of redistricting of congressional lines in 2011. While Democrats may have control over the committee that does the work, Hudson County could be damaged as power shifts south to political bosses such as George Norcross. The state of New Jersey is expected to lose one congressional seat, and this could mean that Hudson County will lose portions of certain congressional seats. One is District 9, which runs through a portion of Jersey City, all of Secaucus and North Bergen, and parts of West Hudson. District 10 may be stripped away from a portion of Jersey City and Bayonne as well.