Perhaps the biggest loser in the Jersey City special election to fill two at-large City Council seats is Mayor Jerramiah Healy, from whom control of the City Council has been wrenched – although it is still unclear as to whether or not this election will help Healy’s arch rival, Councilman Steve Fulop, since Fulop did not endorse anyone.
Fulop’s people claim that if he had endorsed candidates, those candidates would have won. But that remains to be seen, since Sue Mack, whom Fulop endorsed in the school board election earlier this year, came in third behind Viola Richardson and Rolando Lavarro, Jr.
Fulop election foot soldiers were spread out in various campaigns, which was probably the reason Fulop made no endorsements. But he came up the biggest winner of all.
With only three of the nine members of the council still in Healy’s control, he will be unable to stop the aggressive agenda Fulop will be pushing during the upcoming year. This gives Fulop a leg up on the 2013 mayoral election.
Richardson’s victory, although impressive, should not lead her to believe that she will be able to vie with Fulop for mayor, since most of her numbers for the citywide race came in areas where she was already strong, and Fulop has been building a citywide base.
But the Richardson victory and potential candidacy for mayor give state Sen. Sandra Cunningham a way out of a difficult choice. Many people have been urging Cunningham to run for mayor, although she appears to be in a good position as state senator, and some believe she would be foolish to step down to take on the burden of being Jersey City’s mayor.
Cunningham, however, could back Richardson for a mayoral run, and have the best of both worlds, supporting a valued ally while keeping her seat in the state Senate and her powerful allies in Trenton happy.
This could prove to be a big disappointment for Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, who might have slipped into the still-warm state Senate seat if Cunningham ran for Jersey City mayor, now that Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise has made it clear he has no intention of leaving that seat. Rumors suggested that Smith might move up to the county executive seat if DeGise left it. But then Smith would have to contend with Freeholder Chairman Bill O’Dea who might have his eye on that seat, too.
Behind the scenes
Some political observers say the Jersey City election was as much about the operatives as it was the candidates.
“A lot of people were trying to step up or make a comeback,” one source said.
Sean Caddle, who used to work for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, and who ran two of former Assemblyman Louis Manzo’s campaigns, came back to the fray to run Mack’s council campaign.
Craig Guy, who usually holds down the number two spot behind Buddy Demelier, stepped up to run campaigns for Healy’s candidates Ray Velazquez and Kalimah Ahmad. Healy also brought on the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s favorite PR guy, Paul Swibinski and veteran Democratic campaigner Tom Lambert, all to no avail. Velazquez’s campaign seemed to target Fulop, not other candidates in the race. Velazquez, an openly gay man, missed at least one opportunity to attend a rally supporting gay marriage, even after he’d been invited.
Sources also noted that April Kuzas, who ran Dan Levin’s mayor campaign in 2009, started out this year with Lavarro, then went to PJ Leonard, and then came back to Levin.
Developer Steve Hyman was another big winner in this election, since he bankrolled the Richardson and Lavarro campaigns.
Former Fulop council aide Althea Bernhiem served as Rich Boggiano’s right hand woman, which may explain why he did as well as he did.
Freeholder Jeff Dublin’s strong support of Ahmad may come back to haunt him, especially because Fulop’s committee people backed Dublin in the past, only to watch him support Healy’s candidate.
Levin, who is perhaps among the sanest people in Hudson County politics, seemed weak since most of his votes came out of Ward E.
Last week’s report on fundraisers neglected to note that former Hudson County Sheriff Juan Perez also had a successful fundraiser at Puccini’s in Jersey City on Oct. 18. More than 100 people attended, and heard Perez’s loyal sidekick Bob Knapp introduce Perez as “the real sheriff of Hudson County.”
Perez apparently is not interested in running for an Assembly seat, and he is raising funds to run for sheriff again in the 2013 primary, hoping to get the backing of the HCDO, which he did not have last year. Perez also held a coffee klatch on Oct. 23 to support Ahmad and Velazquez.
In what might be labeled in the Strange Bedfellows category, former Bayonne Councilman Gary LaPelusa’s civic association will be featuring ultra-conservative Republican Steve Lonegan as a lecturer on Nov. 17 at the Catholic War Vets in Bayonne. Lonegan is expected to speak on the subject of “Judicial Activism: How the courts meddle in our every day lives and why our taxes have gone up.”
And what of Hoboken? There’s much to write with the FBI arrest of a city employee last week, so more on that next week.