Political impact of the Census

A shudder must have gone through Hudson County political circles with the release of the 2010 U.S. Census numbers.
According to the count, half the population of Hudson County is made up of Latinos and African-Americans, a demographic not well-represented in elected offices.
While the Hudson County Freeholder Board probably has the right ethnic and racial balance, no countywide elected office is currently represented by a Latino. This could spell trouble in the future – especially in the 31st District, where no legislative position is held by a Latino, and where both Bayonne and Jersey City saw an increase in their Latino populations.
To bring a Latino onto the ticket, will State Sen. Sandra Cunningham be forced to choose between running mates in the upcoming primary?
Currently, Cunningham and Assemblyman Charles Mainor, both African-Americans, represent the district – both from Jersey City – along with Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, a Caucasian from Bayonne.
Cunningham and Mainor are close associates, and it would be something of a stretch to assume that she would shed herself of Mainor to save O’Donnell.
O’Donnell, however, has a different take on the Census data, looking not merely at the 31st but the whole of Hudson County. He notes that the legislative representation is pretty diverse when looking at the three districts combined, with assembly members Ruben Ramos, Caridad Rodriguez, and Vincent Prieto making up one third of the total legislative seats from Hudson County.

Who works for Assembly people in the 31st District?

After the recent scandal involving legislative aides in the 31st District – when former Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone deposited money kicked back by aides for campaign and personal use – it is curious to see who the current aides are for the two assemblymen and how much they get paid.
According to the state’s Legislative Services office, O’Donnell has six aides: Jennifer Davis receives $17,500 this year; Maria Duffy, $1,730.77; Michael Embrich, $1,288.46; Stephen Gallo, $1,288.46; Roberta Glee-Stevens, $344.62, and Michael Mulcahy, $1,288.46.
Gallo also serves as executive director to the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority and as the Bayonne City Business administrator.
Charles Mainor’s aides are Sade Benton at $7,500, Tiffanie Cardwell at $10,000, Sebastian D’Amico at $10,000, Michael Holloway at $10,000, Milagros Peralta at $5,000, Aubrey Powell at $27,860, and Nicole Richardson at $25,695.06. Several of Mainor’s aides are close relatives of prominent Jersey City officials.

Redistricting will change everything

Then of course we have the redistricting that must occur over the next two months. A public meeting for the redrawing of the new districts was slated for Feb. 13 at Hudson County Community College. The 10-member commission is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. Each will submit a map for the proposed changes. If the commission becomes deadlocked, the state Supreme Court’s chief justice will cast the tie-breaking vote. With the chief justice a close former associate of Republican Gov. Christopher Christie, the map will likely favor Republicans.
Recommendations for changes include dividing Jersey City into two legislative districts as opposed to the three districts that currently divide it.
For state Senator Brian Stack, the situation is interesting, because there are several options for his district to be redrawn. He and his neighboring state senator, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, could be put into one district, or Sacco’s district can be put largely outside of Hudson County.
No matter which happens, Stack wins, because he is very attractive to the Latino voters who have significant populations in Jersey City and North Bergen that he would inherit through redistricting.
One key to understanding Stack’s advantage may be seen in the fact that Stack uses attorney Kevin O’Toole – a very close associate of Christie and a Republican representative on the redistricting committee – who will likely shape the Republican redistricting map to favor Stack.
Some believe Stack would be better off if he is redistricted in with North Bergen to face off against Sacco.
It is possible that Jersey City will not be divided between Stack and state Sen. Sandra Cunningham at all, but that Cunningham’s district will be expanded to cover most of central, southern and western Jersey City, while a new district is created that would run along the waterfront from Guttenberg, West New York, Weehawken, Hoboken, Jersey City and Bayonne – to reflect the social-ethnic changes there.
Newark’s Assembly district would likely inherit western Hudson County, perhaps even Secaucus.
Redistricting poses huge problems for the Hudson County Democratic Organization if some of this occurs, since Bergen County and Essex County would have a larger role in Hudson County politics than ever before.

Blaettler sets the record straight

Joseph Blaettler, the former Union City deputy police chief who helped a Fox News reporter uncover the details behind the alleged misuse of public vehicles by Stack’s wife Katia in Union City, disputed some details of this column and a story that appeared in several editions of the Hudson Reporter. He said that the segment on the misuse of city cars was not a political hit on Stack.
Blaettler said that he had been hired by a Hudson County resident to look into the misdeeds.
“My client is not some political operative,” he said. “He/she is a Hudson County resident who is sick and tried of what is going on in Union City. Unfortunately, my client like many others is fearful of speaking out.”
“How can you characterize my involvement as ‘complaining?’ ” he asked. “Since when is engaging in legitimate business, i.e. a private investigation to uncover waste in government, complaining? I would prefer it if you simply referred to me as ‘the former disgruntled Deputy Chief of Police’ as per the letter Stack sent to his constituents.”
Blaettler also said that Stack, as public safety director, may be in violation of state law in regards to carrying around a police radio.
He disputed the possibility that the Stack investigation was part of a local political conspiracy to undermine Stack’s growing power and that the Fox News reporter had been duped by local operatives into targeting Stack.
“I am the P.I. who was hired to look into this matter,” he said. “I am the only one who spoke to Mr. Diaz and it took seven months to develop this story. Since the U.S. attorney general and the state attorney general never followed up on my information, I passed the story along to the media.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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