More drama among county Democrats: Bhalla says HCDO leadership asked him to gather petitions, then shut him out

HOBOKEN AND BEYOND — There’s more in the war of words among county Democrats.
Hoboken Councilman Ravinder Bhalla, who is running against the Hudson County Democratic Organization slate in the upcoming June Democratic primary Assembly race to represent the 33rd District, says Bayonne Mayor and HCDO Chairman Mark Smith “leaves out some important facts” in his statement reported earlier at
Smith had claimed that Bhalla was plotting against the HCDO.
“Smith fails to mention that the HCDO leadership itself asked [Hoboken] Mayor [Dawn] Zimmer and myself to collect petitions to run for state Assembly because they were concerned Senator Brian Stack would renege on the backroom deal they made that placed Senator Stack and Assemblyman Ramos on the HCDO line, along with the Russo family committee people,” Bhalla said.
Confused yet?
Bhalla continued, “I collected petitions in good faith and with Mark Smith’s full knowledge, and if he states any different he is lying to the public.”
The HCDO-backed slate for the upcoming race includes incumbent Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. (D – Hoboken) and Sean Connors, a Jersey City detective and school board member.
Bhalla will challenge the slate independently with the support of Zimmer.
Smith, in an earlier statement, said that Bhalla “chose to mount a campaign for Assembly against the party.” However, Bhalla said it was the HCDO leadership who asked him to begin gathering petitions, and said Smith knew about Bhalla gathering signatures. Once the slate was announced, Bhalla wasn’t endorsed by the HCDO.
Bhalla says that members of the HCDO refused to return phone calls, voice mails, and text messages over the weekend, and said there was a “backroom deal” to remove Zimmer’s candidates.
Bhalla said Zimmer then asked him to file the petitions to run for Assembly.
PolitickerNJ reported that a letter provided to the HCDO by Michele Russo, the mother of Zimmer rival Councilman Michael Russo, was considered when creating the slate, while Zimmer’s choices were not.
“As much as Chairman Smith tries to create a false narrative, the simple truth is that Mark Smith made a political decision to shut out reform-minded Democrats from the party in exchange for an alliance with Brian Stack and the Russo family,” Bhalla said. “The way Hudson County’s Democratic party leaders have conducted themselves this week is quite amusing, and would make for a good reality show were it not so unfortunate.”
Stay tuned to as the story continues to emerge. — Ray Smith

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