This November’s midterm City Council elections in Hoboken are heating up, even though it is not yet the end of summer. Traditionally, campaigns really do not kick off until after Labor Day.
For Hoboken, every election is critical, but this year, Mayor Dawn Zimmer is poised to take a commanding lead beyond a simple majority on the nine-member City Council.
In 2013, Zimmer and her at-large candidates swept all the seats, and the result was a one-vote majority. This year, she seems poised to take an additional seat, which would give her a super majority. That would allow her to pass bonding ordinances and other financial legislation. Currently, she needs one of the four opposition council members to vote her way to pass a bonding ordinance.
With all three at-large council members still in her pocket, Zimmer needs to only retain two of the six ward seats to maintain a majority. But it is possible Zimmer might be able to win an additional seat depending on whether her opposition Councilwoman Beth Mason runs in the 2nd Ward.
Mason could be key
Although involved in Hoboken politics since 2003, Mason didn’t get onto the council until 2007. She ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009.
Although once considered an ally of Mayor Zimmer and the reformers, she broke with them when she aligned herself with Councilman Michael Russo, one of the standard bearers for the anti-Zimmer coalition.
A number of political people are waiting for her announcement. At this point, Peter Biancamano appears to be the anti-Zimmer candidate if Mason decides not to seek reelection. Zimmer will likely back Tiffanie Fisher if Fisher decides to run. Even if Mason decides to run, there is no guarantee she will be successful, since Zimmer supporters are largely focused on driving Mason out of local politics.
While 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti apparently has the support of developer Frank Raia, he may not be able to fend off a challenge by former Assemblyman Ruben Ramos. Dana Wefer would be the Zimmer-backed candidate, although she also represents a division inside the Zimmer camp.
Wefer may be connected to Lenz
Wefer’s claim to fame was removing Carmelo Garcia as executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority. Behind the scenes, however, Wefer apparently has ties to former Councilman Michael Lenz, one of the pioneers of the reform movement in Hoboken. Lenz, along with Tony Soares and Carol Marsh, were leaders of the reform movement in the early 2000s, but took back seats when Zimmer came to power.
Lenz actually helped bring Zimmer into politics, but was edged out of the inner circle when Zimmer became mayor.
Wefer, who had rebellious Democratic roots in a Republican-dominated New Jersey suburb, may become a candidate to replace Zimmer as mayor in the future – especially if she wins in the 4th Ward this year.
Other wards may also face challenges
Even 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, a long-standing member of what is called “Old Hoboken,” may have her hands full with a challenge by Zimmer-supported candidate Michael DeFusco, a Zoning Board member.
While most people believe 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo will be reelected, he could face a challenge from a Zimmer-supported candidate, or even from Raia, a powerbroker with deep pockets.
Anti-Zimmer forces are eyeing the 5th and 6th wards where they hope they can unseat Zimmer-aligned council members.
Perhaps it is wishful thinking to believe that 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham is vulnerable. Although Eduardo Gonzalez, a former Housing Authority commissioner and Quality of Life group member, is reportedly planning to run against Cunningham, another candidate may jump into the race instead.
Carmelo Garcia has already announced his candidacy to run in the 6th Ward against Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino.
Garcia is banking on getting a strong vote from Church Towers and some Applied Housing buildings, and intends to play up his Democratic roots against Giattino, who is a Republican – even though the council elections are non-partisan.
No one will actually know who will be running until the Aug. 31 deadline for filing.
New communications director hints of Fulop’s ambitions
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s appointment of Ryan Jacobs as his communications director shows just how serious he is about taking the next step up in his political career.
Jacobs comes from the Obama Administration, where he was chief speechwriter at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Jacobs also worked at West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and strategic communications firm. He is considered a high profile PR guy, the kind of man Fulop will need if he intends to run for governor – or dare I say – higher office beyond that.
Fewer candidates in Bayonne school board race
The Bayonne Board of Education election has already seen casualties, as candidates challenge the petition signatures of other candidates to improve their odds in what is a large field.
While this might well seem anti-democratic in that voters do not get to choose the candidate of their choice, it is also in keeping with a traditional adage: never to run against a candidate if you can find another way to force him or her off the ballot.
With so many politically-inexperienced candidates seeking seats on the board, there is no doubt that the most politically savvy are going to take advantage. In the end, however, you may not wind up with the best candidate, but the one smart enough to know how to claw his or her way to the top.
What will the Jersey City teachers’ union do?
In Jersey City, the election for Board of Education is less about winning seats than removing Dr. Marcia Lyles, an unpopular superintendent of schools. Last year’s election was over the top, with the teachers’ union backing candidates with the ultimate aim of building a coalition of support on the board to settle their contract dispute and eventually replace the superintendent. This year there are far fewer candidates and it will be interesting to see what the teachers intend to do or who they intend to support.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.