Fulop is faced with an uncomfortable choice

Tom DeGise announced his run for reelection as county executive last week.
This will once more divide the county, forcing members of the Hudson County Democratic Organization to decide between the old guard and up-and-comers, the way they previously had when Jerramiah Healy was challenged by Steven Fulop for mayor of Jersey City.
Freeholder Bill O’Dea hopes to run for county executive with Fulop’s support. But this week, DeGise got a boost with the endorsement of state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
The last time Sacco and Stack agreed on a candidate it was to get rid of former Sheriff Juan Perez, to replace him with Frank Schillari – a move Stack may regret these days since the sheriff’s department has become a haven for former Stack insiders who got rewarded with jobs after leaving the Stack camp.
For Fulop, who has ambitions to become governor in 2017, this is a hard choice: supporting O’Dea – a critical person in Fulop’s mayoral victory – or dividing the Democrats in Hudson County at a time when he most needs them united.
Fulop has other options. He can reward O’Dea by supporting him for state Assembly in the 31st District. Fulop insiders already have plans to move Assemblyman Charles Mainor out of the seat next year. This would set the stage for O’Dea to possibly inherit the House of Representatives seat currently occupied by Rep. Albio Sires when Sires retires.

West New York gets its piece of governor’s race

Jamie Cryan was appointed as director of the West New York Parking Authority to replace outgoing Richard Rivera.
This is a surprise move since Cryan is best known for roles in Hoboken as the chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Organization, and as campaign manager for Tim Occhipinti’s failed mayoral bid last November.
West New York is doing a spring house cleaning. So that changes in the Parking Authority as well as other departments makes sense. But the move also has regional and statewide implications. Cryan’s cousin, Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, has huge influence in Essex and Union counties. The move to hire young Cryan appears to be part of an effort to secure the elder Cryan’s support when Fulop makes his move on the governor’s mansion.
WNY Commissioner FiorD’Aliza Frias got a new job in Hudson County as a confidential aide to County Administrator Abe Antun, one more shakeup in the Roque administration which has been born again after nearly two years in turmoil.
Mayor Felix Roque has even made peace with his long time rival, Commissioner Count Wiley, which goes to show how odd politics can be. Wiley was the key person behind last year’s attempted recall.
But newly-hired City Counselor Donald Scarinci is behind many of the changes, trying to reshape the government into something more efficient. He even asked for Department of Public Works employees to be assigned back to their duties under Commissioner Wiley.
During the heat of the battle with Wiley, Mayor Roque had ordered DPW workers assigned elsewhere, leaving the department far less effective.
“We’re back to where we ought to be,” one worker said. “Things are good again.”
“I truly appreciate Commissioner Wiley,” Roque said. “I believe we are working together for the common good.”

Freeholder conflicts

The near upset by James Davis in the municipal race against Mayor Mark Smith on May 13 could affect the June 3 primary race for freeholder in Bayonne with Ken Kopacz and Ralph Augusta. Kopacz, who is being supported by Smith and the HCDO, is being challenged by Davis-supported Augusta.
One of Davis’ council candidates was elected outright, while he and his four other council running mates have successfully managed a runoff election (slated for June 10) with the remaining Smith ticket. Davis people may use the primary – which is a week before the runoff elections – to see if they can also get Augusta elected.
While Mayor Smith has been wounded politically as a result of the runoff, he and the Bayonne Democratic Organization still have a lot of sway. If Augusta beats Kopacz, it will bode ill for Smith’s ticket in the runoff. But a victory for the Smith candidate could rekindle his teams’ enthusiasm, and carry over into a runoff success.
In a year that seems ripe for upsets, Freeholder Chairman Jose Munoz seems to be rallying troops in West New York in an attempt to beat back the challenge by WNY Commissioner Carridad Rodriguez. Munoz is seen as something of a maverick candidate, having severed ties with both Stack and Sacco in North Hudson to run a grassroots campaign. Even political figures connected with his opponent believe Munoz has a shot of pulling it off.
Jersey City Freeholder Jeff Dublin is trying to get his votes out to counter a challenge by Fulop-backed Gerard “Gerry” Balmir. This could be a race too close to call since Dublin has significant ties in the community.
In the Hoboken/Jersey City race, Freeholder Anthony Romano is receiving heavy union support against Phil Cohen, who is being supported by Mayor Fulop and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Cohen is seen as a frontrunner, but may not have an easy time of it if Romano gets funding he needs.
The two most interesting races are in North Bergen and Union City, where upstart candidates Henry Marrero and Jose Falto going directly against two of the most powerful political machines. Marrero is seeking to keep Sacco-picked Anthony Vainieri from replacing outgoing Freeholder Thomas Liggio. Falto is seeking to unseat Stack-backed Freeholder Tilo Rivas. How well either of these candidates do will reflect just how far we can expect anti-administration candidates to go.

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

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