Redistricting puts Stack in a bind

The redrawing of state legislative districts won’t be as interesting as many people had hoped, but it will cause a significant number of headaches for state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack no matter what happens.
Reports suggest that Jersey City will fall solely within two legislative districts instead of the current three-way divide.
Jersey City is currently split between the 31st District in the south end, where Sandra Cunningham is state senator and Charles Mainor and Jason O’Donnell are Assembly members; the 32nd, where North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco serves as senator and Joan Quigley and Vincent Prieto serve as Assembly members; and the 33rd District, where Stack is the senator, and Ruben Ramos and Caridad Rodriguez are Assembly members.
Some people believed the redistricting committee would put Sacco and Stack in the same district, setting up the political equivalent of a heavyweight bout. Instead, the committee said each of the 40 districts statewide will be required to expand by 54,000 residents.
Sacco is perhaps the most fortunate, because his district will likely expand to include Edgewater, Fort Lee, Cliffside Park, and Fairview, and remain mostly a Democratic district. The question is whether he will also get West New York and Guttenberg as well.
Most political observers expect Stack to inherit Jersey City wards C, D, and E, indcluding Jersey City Heights, while Cunningham will take Wards A, B, and F.
It is likely this will be the end of Quigley’s Assembly career, since Stack will pick his own candidate from Jersey City for that seat. Stack is faced with a hard choice if redistricting allows him to keep West New York as well, since he will be forced to dump one of his existing Assembly members. Since Rodriguez has close ties to Rep. Albio Sires and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Stack will likely dump Ramos.

Is Stack vulnerable?

The redistricting poses other problems for Stack. By expanding his district into Jersey City, Stack waters down the natural voting superiority of Union City over his district. This means that a strong challenger from Jersey City could possibly unseat Stack in a senatorial showdown for the 33rd District.
Prior to this, Stack – with his huge voter plurality in Union City – did not need anyone outside of Union City to help him get elected. After the redistricting, he will have to negotiate for support in Jersey City, giving a beleaguered Jersey City political organization another lease on life.
Adding to Stack’s woes is the upcoming freeholder election in Jersey City, where Stack is going to be forced to take a side in the race for Eliu Rivera’s seat that includes a large portion of Jersey City Heights and part of downtown Jersey City.
Late last year, Rivera hinted that he might not run for reelection, but wanted a say in picking his successor. The two most likely candidates would be Edgar Martinez or Junior Maldonado. Martinez, however, lives one block outside the freeholder district. More importantly, reports suggest that County Executive Tom DeGise, along with his chief of staff and Ward D Councilman Bill Gaughan, and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy have already promised that seat to Sean Connors – who dropped his challenge for Gaughan’s council seat in 2009.
Claiming this is a Latino seat, Rivera appears to have had second thoughts about withdrawing from the race, and may seek reelection after all.
But he might not be able to count on Stack’s support, even though Stack is a huge proponent of Latinos.
DeGise, Gaughan, and Healy could actually put up a full ticket against Stack – reportedly with Maldonado as a candidate for the senate seat – forcing Stack into a battle he does not have to fight.
As uncomfortable as some other political power brokers might be with the situation, few are willing to start another Democratic civil war over the freeholder seat, especially in a year when nearly all of the county level seats are up for reelection along with the state senate and Assembly.

Hoboken freeholder seat most likely safe

It is unlikely freeholder districts will change with redistricting as much this year as they did in early 2001, when Secaucus was divided between two districts, but it is possible that Hoboken may see its boundaries change, trading the existing sections of Jersey City Heights for a portion of downtown Jersey City.
Although there have been rumblings about Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer putting up a candidate against Freeholder Anthony Romano, she might not be able to come up with a strong enough candidate. The logical choice would be former Councilman Michael Lenz, but he is a county employee and can’t run. Former Councilman Tony Soares would also be a good choice, although he is not likely interested in the position. Former mayoral and freeholder candidate, Frank Raia won’t likely run either, simply because he finally became the Hoboken representative to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
Although Zimmer might want to replace Romano, she may not have the resources to run a candidate in the county freeholder primary when she is busy trying to re-take control of the city council in the May municipal ward elections.

Hoboken council

While nearly every one of his former allies in last November’s special election for 4th Ward councilman is claiming influence over him, Hoboken Councilman Tim Occhipinti seems to have remarkable luck carrying over into the May elections. He recently managed to get his close ally Michael DeFusco named to the Zoning Board, suggesting that if he sticks to the script, he may see strong support in the 4th ward in his battle against Rami Pinchevsky.


We need to make one small correction from last week’s column, which said that most if not all the Hudson County mayors showed up for the swearing in of Frank Schillari as the new Hudson County sheriff. Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli did not attend, even though Schillari is a resident of Secaucus, strengthening the rumor that Schillari may soon emerge as the head of the Secaucus Democratic Party.

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