The candidates for the Hoboken City Council who opposed Mayor Dawn Zimmer suffered several defeats last week as they lost seats in four out of six wards. But for more realistic political observers, the outcome was no surprise.
While the more hopeful among the anti-Zimmer forces forecast a potential sweep, those who were better grounded knew that Zimmer’s candidates had a strong opportunity in the 5th and 6th Wards, and had a fair chance of winning the 1st Ward.
Those assessments proved to be accurate. Michael DeFusco unseated long-time incumbent Theresa Castellano in the 1st Ward, Peter Cunningham fended off a challenge by Eduardo Gonzalez in the 5th Ward, and Jennifer Giattino solidly defeated challenger Carmelo Garcia in the 6th.
The only unexpected loss for the anti-Zimmer forces came in the 2nd Ward, where Tiffanie Fisher, a Zimmer ally, won in a three-way race against Bonney Murray and Peter Biancamano for the seat vacated by longtime Zimmer opponent Beth Mason.
Michael Russo ran unopposed and so retained his 3rd Ward seat. If there was any positive news for the anti-Zimmer forces, it came from the decisive victory of Ruben Ramos in a three way race over incumbent Tim Occhipinti and Housing Authority Chairwoman Dana Wefer.
Ramos’ victory might have meant a bad night for Freeholder Anthony Romano (since he and Ramos are both expected to run for mayor in two years), but two of the three Board of Education candidates Romano supported were elected. Romano’s whole ticket might have swept, except that a candidate supported by Frank Raia cut into the vote, allowing a Zimmer-supported candidate to win the third seat instead.
The victory of Zimmer candidates in the council race gives the mayor overwhelming control of the governing body over the next two years and most likely beyond the mayor/council election in 2017.
Fulop’s political machine is alive and well
The victory of a slate of Board of Education candidates backed by Mayor
As it must be, if Fulop intends to mount a campaign for governor in 2017 but keep his options open. The move of the municipal election will allow him to run in the Democratic primary for governor in June 2017, and if he loses, still run for reelection as mayor in November.
Since Fulop-supported members already control the school board, the victory of his three candidates was largely symbolic.
The HCDO is strong
Countywide, the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) continued to flex its muscles even though for the most part it didn’t need to. HCDO state Assembly candidates in all three legislative districts won decisive victories over their Republican challengers.
Assembly Speaker (and HCDO Chairman) Vincent Prieto and
Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Angelica McKnight overwhelmed independent candidates Anthony Zanowic and Alejandro Rodriguez and GOP opponents Matthew Kopko and Herminio Mendoza, a victory some will see as a gratifying response from the voters to Kopko’s unrelenting negative campaign, which motivated many HCDO people to work harder to defeat him.
“We don’t just want to beat him,” said one worker. “We want to beat him big.” And the HCDO did it.
For Kopko, however, the election may not have been merely about beating the HCDO. As an attorney, Kopko represents a number of high-profile clients in Hudson County and Bayonne, and some suggest the election was about raising his public profile.
But his negative campaign may have backfired in that regard as well, since it managed to create very powerful enemies who will not forget what he said over the last three months.
Beating the machine in WNY
This election cycle was not without its upsets. In particular, the victory of Matthew F. Cheng in West New York showed that sometimes one person can beat the political machine. Elected last year on an anti-Mayor Felix Roque ticket, Cheng became the target of pro-Roque forces. Campaign literature routinely stressed the need to beat Cheng. His survival proves political opposition to Roque and his new political allies is still alive.
This also marked one of two political losses for campaign guru Pablo Fonseca. After a string of remarkably successful campaigns, including last year’s complicated WNY Board of Education election, Fonsca lost two elections in one night: the fight against Cheng in WNY, and the fight to get Peter Biancamano elected councilman in the 2nd Ward in Hoboken. As in baseball, everybody strikes out from time to time.
In the Nov. 1 edition of the Hudson Reporter, a Between the Lines column entitled “Citizen Grossbard” mistakenly said the Hoboken Housing Authority had hired a law firm connected with Council President Ravi Bhalla to replace outgoing attorney Charles Daglian. The column should have said that the HHA attempted to replace Daglian with the firm, to which Bhalla would later become “of counsel,” but the motion failed when HHA Trustee Greg Lincoln cast the deciding vote against the hiring. Under new HHA Chairwoman Dana Wefer, the HHA later hired another firm based on the recommendations of a search committee.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.