WNY municipal election could be a repeat of 2011

Although West New York Commissioner Count Wiley believes the recall campaign and his candidacy for mayor are still on track, many believe that no recall will happen. They believe Mayor Felix Roque will walk away from current federal charges that claim he and his son allegedly hacked into the website of political enemies. Then, he will go head to head with former Mayor Sal Vega in a repeat of the 2011 election.
This means potential rivals will have until 2015 to sharpen their political swords. Vega, however, will have a problem, because like last time, Rep.Albio Sires will likely back Roque over Vega.
What will be different in 2015, however – if all factors stay the same as they are today – will be that Roque and not Vega will have the support of state Senator and North Hudson Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
While Roque has done much to mend fences with Sires and Sacco over the last few months, Sacco’s support will be part of an effort to fortify his renewed relationship with Sires.
Vega might off set this a little with support from old allies currently in the administration of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
But Roque may not be able to overcome the legal issue. Federal authorities appear to have offered him a deal with would allow charges to be dropped against his son, and would give probation to Roque. But apparently Roque would have to step down as mayor.
This would probably come too late for a special election in November and would either require the current commissioners to name a new commissioner and new mayor or leave the commissioner’s seat open until November 2014 when there would be a special election.
(In West New York government, five commissioners are elected and choose a mayor from among themselves.)
Wiley and Vega would wind up at the top of a long list of people seeking to become mayor, and would put Sires in a terrible position of having to find an alternative candidate.
On a smaller scale, Vega appears to have won a small victory over Roque when a jury found last week that he was not negligent in a fender bender from 2009 when Vega was still mayor. West New York city attorneys under Roque decided to withdraw their financial support for Vega’s case, saying that the accident occurred at a time when Vega was not acting in his capacity as mayor. Vega believed the lack of support was political to force him to drain his finances. Going into the final day of the court case last week, Vega felt confident that he did no injury to the people suing him.
“I didn’t worry until it went to the jury,” he said. “After that I started talking to God.”
The jury took only 30 minutes to decide in Vega’s favor.

Primary for U.S. Senate seat

The death of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg earlier this year left shoes too big for anybody to fill. But that isn’t stopping four Democrats and two Republicans from trying – not to mention at the cost of $2.4 million to county taxpayers if the state doesn’t fork over the cash to pay for the Aug. 14 primary and the special election in October.
But there is a cost to local political organizations who claim they don’t have the money to get the vote out for any of the candidates.
Tom Bartoli, who is running the Hudson County campaign for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, laughs and says there won’t be a lot of voters to get out.
“This is a school board election on a state level,” he joked. “I’m going to hold a vote by mail campaign on Seaside Heights boardwalk.”
By this he means that most of the voters will be away on vacation and that turnout will likely be as little or less than the numbers that come out for a traditional school board election.
In the Democratic Primary, Booker is running against Rep. Rush D. Holt Jr., state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Rep. Frank Pallone.
Vying for the Republican nomination are Alieta Eck, former president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and Steve Lonegan, former mayor of Bogota, former State Director of Americans for Prosperity, and candidate for governor in 2005 and 2009.

Castellano bows out

Hoboken Councilwoman Terry Castellano said she will not be running for mayor in the 2013 election. She also said she will not support either of the two candidates currently running: Assemblyman Ruben Ramos and Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Instead, she will concentrate on her own reelection as a council person in two years.
“I don’t think either of the two people running for mayor has leadership qualities I can support,” she said.
This election, she said, has taken a toll on her nerves, partly because her son has been recruited to work for the Ramos campaign, and she feels it was a back handed way to force her to support Ramos or to keep her from running on a third ticket.
She said, “My son is taking the job. He sees it only as a job. I just don’t want people to think that I’m supporting Ruben just because my son is working for Ruben.”
She said a nasty rumor has been circulating for months that she held back her support in exchange for jobs for her and her son.
“It’s not true,” she said. “The last thing I need is another hat. But my son working for the campaign makes it look like it’s true.”
She said she will shortly issue a letter to the press that will outline her position.
“I do not think Ruben or Mayor Zimmer have the material for a chief executive,” she said.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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