Although four of six candidates supported by Mayor Dawn Zimmer came out winners in the Nov. 3 election, some political observers believe that the real winner is Councilman-Elect Ruben Ramos.
In some ways, the 2015 municipal elections could be seen as a house-cleaning among the anti-Zimmer forces, with Ramos allegedly getting rid of the last Old Guard rebels who derailed his 2013 mayoral bid.
Nov. 3 saw the loss of Ramos’ rival Tim Occhipinti, as well as Peter Biancamano (who ran on Occhipinti’s ticket in 2013), and incumbent 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, with whom Ramos had some dispute during the 2013 election as well.
Ramos beat Occhipinti and Zimmer ally Dana Wefer to assure himself a seat on the City Council. Biancamano lost partly because Bonnie Murray (allegedly a political ally of Ramos) refused to get out of the race, allowing Zimmer-supported Tiffanie Fisher to win.
Although Michael DeFusco was seen by some as a Zimmer candidate, many believe he also has ties to Ramos.
With Ramos potentially aligned with Michael Russo on the council, he is in a position to rebuild the anti-Zimmer movement with people loyal to him.
Insiders believe giving Zimmer full control of the council will actually work in Ramos’ favor, since Zimmer will not be able to blame the opposition for any of her failings. Indeed, some believe that Zimmer will plunge ahead with plans to rebuild Washington Street and Observer Highway. Ramos will be in a position to take full advantage of the political backlash resulting from the expected chaos, especially among business owners.
In getting firm control of the City Council, Zimmer will be forced to live up to her promises for the future, and will have to take the blame for any failings. Many outside the city administration believe that Zimmer will once more renew her attack on Hudson County government in order to find someone to blame for rising taxes. This may also help Ramos, driving county power brokers to seek a less hostile Hoboken mayor. The mayoral race takes place in 2017.
Board of Education races full of political intrigue
Frank Raia denies that he made a deal to run against Russo for council (a race he later withdrew from, allowing Russo to run unopposed). He also denies backing any candidates in the recent Hoboken Board of Education election. Critics believe that Patricia Waiters’ candidacy helped derail a sweep by a ticket backed by Freeholder Anthony Romano. Romano got two candidates in. John Madigan, Thomas Kluepfel and Britney Montgomery led the voting in a close election.
In an equally close election in Secaucus, Louis Giele, Norma Hanley, and Joan Cali were elected. Kellie D’Addetta came within 50 votes of taking the third seat. Former school trustee Tom Troyer fell about 90 votes short.
Bitter feelings still remain in the Bayonne school board election, which was loaded with negative campaigning.
Denis Wilbeck overwhelmingly won a one-year term in the first elected Board of Education vote since the 1970s.
With nearly 43 percent of the total vote in the one year category, Wilbeck’s numbers showed he would have won a seat in the two- or three-year categories, which were also run in this election.
“I ran for one year to see how I like it,” Wilbeck said.
The two-year race was much more evenly-matched. While Christopher Munoz prevailed, nearly all the other candidates were within reach. Although ,Christos Genes came in dead last in the two-year portion of the election, some people see him as a spoiler. His 274 votes would have given two or more of the other candidates the lead.
Munoz had the endorsement of the teacher’s union. Thomas Howard, who was endorsed by Mayor James Davis, came in third. Michael Alonso, who some claim led the drive to establish an elected board in Bayonne, came in second.
Alonso, who ran for 3rd Ward council and lost in 2014, came in third in a field of five. This year he won 12 out of 19 districts in the third. So expect him to make run for school board next year and again for City Council again in 2018.
Fulop wins on moving election to November
Voters in 2017 will have a full plate to deal with after the Jersey City City Council voted to move municipal elections from May to November. Voters will be able to choose a new governor, a U.S. senator, members of the House of Representatives, freeholders, school board members, mayor and council, and party committee people.
This is a pretty heavy lift for the average citizen, and will require a master’s degree in political science to deal with all of the campaign literature and such.
While proponents of the change claim that ballots can be adjusted to be less confusing, and that the county should order new voting machines to deal with these inflated ballots, the truth is, voters might not be able to digest all of issues in the short span of time between Labor Day and Election Day.
This seems to be a real disservice to voters who must make critical decisions about candidates while being bombarded with media overload. In truth, this also goes a long way towards hurting less well-funded campaigns. The campaign that can afford to get the candidate’s name out will have a huge advantage.
Proponents claim that the election in November will bring out more voters. This is partly true. But how informed will those voters be when they have so many candidates being thrown at them at once?
The November election will also supposedly save money. Even if it does, it will be at the expense of voter exhaustion.
Moving the municipal election to November and doing away with a runoff election helped Hoboken Mayor Zimmer retain her seat with less than 50 percent of the total vote cast. The same can be true for Fulop if voters choose to do away with runoff elections. In Jersey City, where there are usually a host of candidates, the split opposition vote can only help Fulop and his running mates retain their seats.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.