The dirty tricks in Hoboken continued as one more week towards the November special election for 4th ward council seat passes.
Former President Richard Nixon didn’t invent the concept of campaign sabotage, but he certainly brought it to new heights in the 1972 election against then Senator George McGovern.
But over the last few weeks, Hoboken can take pride in political tricks and the diverting of blame in moves that will do much to confuse voters.
While the most current talk around town is about the so-called confrontation between Mayor Dawn Zimmer and a local priest over the possible content of a sermon at the annual Blue Mass for police officers, the real story involves a poorly designed and confusing telephone poll that asked a number of ridiculous questions from the popularity of a silly Zimmer-supporting blogger to how Zimmer and others would fair in a head-to-head election with state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
Stack seemed unaware of the poll, as he should be, since any comparison between a municipal elected official and the all-powerful Union City political machine is like comparing a gnat to King Kong.
The poll taken during several days in early September was so full of bizarre questions that nearly everyone can point the finger at someone else and claim the other person was responsible for the poll. Those supporting Zimmer and 4th Ward Councilman Michael Lenz claim the poll was generated by Councilwoman Beth Mason, who they say is trying to get an early read on her reelection chances in next May’s regular municipal elections. Lenz supporters sift through the political diarrhea for clues that point to Mason, while those opposed to Lenz can point to an equal number of questions that seem to indicate the poll came out of his camp. As with verses from The Bible, you get out of this poll whatever you want.
The reports over Zimmer’s alleged confrontation with a priest over at the annual Blue Mass has taken on mythological proportions, and has the potential to turn a political circus into a holy war – regardless of what might have really happened.
Rules of the game in Hoboken
Meanwhile, Lenz’s call for both sides to abide by state election laws regarding political ads and reporting of financing seems very positive on the surface. Declarations of who pays for ads, telephone polls, and such would eliminate some of the confusion when it comes to such polls as the one last week.
One point of contention seems to be the elimination of street money or cash payments to workers on Election Day. Workers are key to getting out the vote on Election Day, and if the Zimmer election is any indication, Lenz can expect a flood of volunteers – leaving his better-funded opposition to hire people to counter. Street money often goes towards some of the poorer residents of the city.
The most controversial part of Lenz’s proposal involves absentee ballots, which would ask both sides not to take an absentee ballot from a person who can otherwise get to the polls. Absentee ballots – which are usually made for seniors and other people unable to go to a voting location – have played critical roles in past elections. They are favored by political people because – unlike voting on a machine – candidates or their representatives know who the person is voting for, and thus can control their supporters.
Meanwhile, Lenz has to be looking over his shoulder. Last week, a number of his known political enemies met in Hoboken to pull their resources behind his opponent, Tim Occhipinti.
“It was amazing. Nobody was arguing,” said one person there. “Everybody was asking what they could do to help.”
The unofficial campaign slogan is: “Stop Lenz.”
Assembly election in Bayonne gets complicated
Jason O’Donnell, the candidate selected by the Democratic Committee in the 31st District, has challenged the petition signatures of Independent candidates Denis Wilbeck and
A candidate needs 100 signatures from registered voters to be placed on the ballot, and O’Donnell’s campaign is challenging 70 of Wilbeck’s 167 and some of Mays’s – although Mays will likely qualify even if all his challenged signatures are thrown out.
“This is just an attempt to keep me off the ballot,” Wilbeck said, raising questions about how O’Donnell could appear on the ballot when he never submitted any signatures at all.
O’Donnell, who faces a challenge from Mays, Wilbeck, and Republican Joseph Turula, said he had his signatures, but was told by the state that, as a party candidate, he was not required to submit them. Representatives for Republican Turula were told the same thing.
“In accordance to New Jersey Statute 19:27-11.1, when a vacancy arises as it did in the 31st legislative district, the candidates for the two major parties – Democrat and Republican – are not required to submit nomination petitions. They are chosen by the respective county party leadership,” said Shawn Chrisafulli, press person for the state election’s office. “However, all independent candidates are required to submit petitions, for which the requirement is 100 signatures.”
O’Donnell said that the same night earlier this month when the Democratic Committee voted to have him fill the seat vacated by Anthony Chiappone, it also voted him as its candidate for the November election.