With so many candidates running for so many different terms, the Bayonne school board election is bound to be confusing.
This is the first election since voters approved a referendum last November creating an elected school board. And like any other political event, anybody who is anybody is seeking a seat.
Factions exist. It will be hard for campaigners to get the voters to understand who exactly is with whom, and if they are pro-Mayor James Davis, against him, or neutral.
Because this has become a very long campaign season, some of the people who were assumed to be automatic frontrunners may not be leading the pack when voters finally get into the voting booth.
Ironically, one of the central motivations for getting an elected board had to do with the unsettled contract with the teacher’s union. Many people blamed former Mayor Mark Smith for holding up the contract, and credited Davis, his successor, with solving the problem. But that was the old contract, and teachers have returned to the bargaining table for a new contract without having Mayor Smith to blame.
The makeup of the new Bayonne school board in January might well be hostile to Davis, creating a breeding ground that might influence municipal elections in the future.
Hoboken is always confusing
While Bayonne appears to be the most uncertain race this fall, a number of other races are of interest, particularly in Hoboken.
Hoboken’s municipal and school board elections are both on the same Nov. 3 ballot. Some of the candidates for the six ward City Council seats are trying to hook up with school board candidates in order to draw votes. Reports suggest that some ward candidates may be wooing Patricia Waiters in order to get her hefty vote from the Hoboken housing projects.
Hoboken is already a mess with splintered sides, and the Waiters distraction could take away from solid support for the school board candidates who are running against Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s candidates.
The municipal election could not be more confusing.
Strange as it might seem, it appears that arch-enemies Councilwoman Beth Mason and Mayor Zimmer might be on the same side. Mason and Zimmer appear to be backing developer Frank Raia in the 3rd Ward against council incumbent Michael Russo.
Most political observers believe Raia can’t win, but his candidacy will keep Russo busy and away from helping anti-Zimmer candidates in other wards, such as Carmelo Garcia. Garcia is trying to unseat Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino in the 6th Ward.
Raia is rumored to have brokered a deal with Zimmer that will allow her to reappoint him to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
Some people who support Russo, Garcia, and candidates such as Ruben Ramos have already had a gripe with Raia over the third ticket he funded in 2013 that many believe allowed Zimmer to get reelected. This newfound friendship with Zimmer has some wondering if perhaps Raia made a deal with her back then, too.
Change of PR won’t affect WNY school board makeup
Although Pablo Fonseca will manage the campaigns for school board candidates supported by Mayor Felix Roque, he is no longer the mayor’s official spokesperson . Fortunately, his departure has happened after the critical school board elections from last year. Most people do not see the upcoming school board election as critical. Fonseca, a political consultant who is apparently going to represent at least one candidate in the Hoboken elections, has a very successful track record going back to the election of Cory Booker as mayor of Newark. Most people credit Fonseca with getting Roque candidates elected to the board last year despite an extremely confusing and crowded ballot. This same political operation managed to get Roque reelected earlier this year.
The anti-Troyer movement?
In Secaucus, former school trustee Tom Troyer is still trying to get back onto the board. In the past, successful behind-the-scenes lobbying by Mayor Michael Gonnelli has blocked Troyer’s return. But like General McArthur and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, Troyer’s mantra appears to be “I’ll be back.”
So people close to Gonnelli caution the mayor not to underestimate Troyer this year. They warn that if Troyer slips back in, he will cause trouble – although Troyer thinks trouble is the wrong word, and sees himself as a watchdog. He recently forced the board to redo some of its actions after he discovered the meeting when they took those actions was improper.
Faced with the most significant classroom space shortage in a generation, the Jersey City Board of Education election is far tamer than last year. This is partly because the board settled its contract with the teachers, an issue that had fueled a political upset. With four candidates running for three seats, this year’s election will be more like a game of musical chairs, and less a chance for a significant change in policy.
The board shifted significantly last year from one that was pro-Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles to a board split nearly down the middle. There is a move afoot to try to replace Lyles. But with two of the anti-Lyles members up for reelection, it is unlikely that this election will give them enough clout to force Lyles out.
It’s just not fair
The big question on November’s ballot in Jersey City will be whether or not voters decide to move the municipal elections to November in 2017.
The referendum, if passed, will benefit Mayor Steven Fulop, who is expected to make a run for governor in the spring 2017 Democratic primary. By moving the municipal election to November, if he loses the gubernatorial primary he could still choose to run for mayor. This is something he would not be able to do if the municipal elections were set in May.
Some people are outraged by the attempted move, including some who previously supported it.
“It’s just not fair to do it just to benefit one person,” one political observer said. “They should pass the referendum for the following election, not the one coming up in 2017.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.