For Bayonne readers, who will see this column after the election, the impact of Gov. Christopher Christie’s name at the top of the ticket will already be known. But in the closing days of the election, many wondered if his moves to position himself in the political mainstream would actually hurt the Republicans on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Christie is looking for bi-partisan window dressing that will allow him to pile up an election landslide over state Senator Barbara Buono so as to make him an appealing candidate for president of the United States in 2016.
But has he been too friendly with Democrats, making friends of those who endorse him or build up his ego?
His success will hinge not on the total number of votes he gets in his reelection bid, but how many Republicans he carries into the state legislature on his coattails, and some political observers believe he actually may lose some seats.
A perfect example Republicans cite is in the 33rd District, where state Sen. Brian Stack, a Democrat, has endorsed Christie, guaranteeing not only a large turnout for the governor, but nearly guaranteed election of Stack’s Democratic runningmates Carmelo Garcia of Hoboken, and Raj Mukherji.
How does Stack’s Republican challenger, James Sanford of Hoboken, hope to get himself and his two Assembly runningmates, Jude Tiscornia of Jersey City and Armando Hernandez of Union City, elected?
Republican Maria Karczewski of Bayonne has the same problem when facing off against Democratic Sen. Sandra Cunningham. Christie and Cunningham are close and so she and her runningmates Assemblymen Jason O’Donnell and Charles Mainor are likely to benefit more from a Christie landslide than Karczewski or her running mates Gerard Pizzillo and Juanita Lopez.
While Republican Paul Castelli of Kearny and his Assembly runningmates Maria Malavasi-Quartello and
Buono, of course, is the sacrificial lamb that Democrats have put up against a very popular Republican governor, but as local Democrats in Hudson County point out, this is Christie’s last statewide election, and if Democrats come out ahead or even break even this time, they will be in a good position to retake the statehouse in 2017 – or at least, set the agenda that a weaker Republican governor might not be able to overturn.
A Christie landslide will not likely have much of an impact on the election of the Hudson County sheriff, where the incumbent Frank Schillari is opposed by Republican Fernando Villar, and independents John Butranavage, Anthony Di Iorio, and Herbert H. Shaw.
E. Junior Maldonado is running unopposed in a special election for the 4th District Freeholder seat. Guttenberg Mayor Gerald R. Drasheff and his council ticket of Monica Fundora, John D. Habermann, and Efrain Velez are also running unopposed. So is Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli with his ticket of council candidates that include Robert Costantino, Mark Dehnert, and William McKeever.
Hoboken is a mess
Guttenberg, Jersey City, and Hoboken are all having school board elections.
Hoboken has a contested school board election with nine candidates seeking three seats in a classic battle that has an odd crossover influence on the municipal elections taking place at the same time. Combined with a ballot question on rent control, the Hoboken election is one of the most confusing and time-consuming to follow.
The municipal elections are distracting from the school elections, all of which were moved to November as a kind of budget-saving measure (although this year Mayor Dawn Zimmer is expected to get something of a boost from running with Christie.)
With the mayor and council race largely taking center stage, school elections may not get the same attention they otherwise would deserve.
Polls are scarce recently, but there have been two. One, done apparently for the mayoral campaign of Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, shows Zimmer in the lead with 40 percent of likely voters, Ramos close behind with 35 percent, and Councilman Tim Occhipinti far behind both with something just short of 15 percent. This leaves about 10 percent undecided. (Alternative poll numbers have Zimmer at 40, Ramos at 30, Occhipinti at 15 with 15 percent undecided.)
Ramos supporters believe they can win the election partly because his voters tend to be unrepresented in polls and they believe undecided voters tend go against the incumbent.
This would make the race neck and neck going into the last week of the election.
But this could change dramatically. Behind the scenes reports claim that Ramos campaign is just about out of money, leaving the well-funded Occhipinti campaign with enough cash to blanket local media and shift not only undecided votes to Occhipinti, but shake some loose from the Ramos camp as well.
But it is also possible that the constant negative campaigning of the Occhipinti camp could drive his voters to Ramos instead.
The second poll, apparently done for Occhipinti, seemed more focused on the City Council race, a much more difficult number to evaluate since most of the candidates are bracketed. In this poll Frank Raia came up with the most name recognition. This explains the heavy push from the Occhipinti camp to go after Zimmer’s council candidate, Ravi Bhalla, hoping to shake voter confidence in Bhalla in favor of Raia.
The problem is with so many alternative candidates running, even if the ploy is successful in damaging Bhalla (unlikely among his supporters) voters have too many choices to guarantee a Raia victory.
Opposition to the Zimmer ticket also blundered. While the negative campaign against Bhalla makes some political sense, recent attacks against Jennifer Giattino (who is not running) over her legal residence may just galvanize the Zimmer voters. Giattino was accused of not living in the ward where she serves as council person. She was displaced as a result of Hurricane Sandy, winning her increased sympathy as the victim of a senseless political attack, and by default, undoing some of the successes the opposition has against Bhalla.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.