With the fight over moving the Jersey City municipal election from May to November still unsettled, many people are beginning to ask who will replace Mayor Steven Fulop if he manages to win the Democratic nomination for governor in 2017.
Is there an heir apparent? Or will there will a free-for-all even among some City Council members who ran with him in 2013?
Among those most mentioned is Council President Rolando Lavarro. But some people believe Councilwoman Candice Osborne might consider a run. She was heir apparent to Ward E when Fulop ran and won as mayor. This could explain why Brittani Bunney has been much more active in the community. While Bunney had dispelled rumors of her run for Ward E council person, her activities suggest she is gearing up for a Ward E election. But Osborne, who is deeply involved in her own business projects, may not even seek reelection as a council person.
Councilwoman at large Joyce Watterman is also a potential candidate for mayor, and was for a time earlier this year considered as a candidate for state Assembly. She is very popular in Ward F and Ward A, but appears to have a strong following in a number of areas of the city.
For a time, former Gov. Jim McGreevey was rumored as a possible mayoral replacement for Fulop. McGreevey has recently relocated to JFK Boulevard, and has also been rumored as a possible replacement for Councilman Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal, if Ramchal is forced to resign. Ramchal is still facing charges in regards to how he performed his job with the Hudson County Improvement Authority.
Freeholder Bill O’Dea is a strong ally of Fulop and a powerhouse on the west side of Jersey City. A former councilman from Ward C, O’Dea has long eyed the mayoral seat, and is in a strong position to run as Fulop’s replacement. After more than 17 years on the Freeholder board, O’Dea may well be looking for a promotion. He is also rumored as a possible replacement for Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, if DeGise chooses not to run again in 2019.
It is possible, but not likely, that state Sen. Sandra Cunningham might want to run for mayor, filling the seat that her husband Glenn Cunningham held. But it is very difficult to determine how strong she is politically in Jersey City. Most people believe she will likely remain a state senator.
Fulop enemies may be gearing up as well
Potential opposition candidates are likely to spring up like mushrooms after a heavy rain, especially if Fulop manages to get the city to move the election to November and do away with a runoff election.
Theoretically, the lack of a runoff would most benefit a candidate backed by Fulop, since he has a powerful political machine to get out the vote. But elections are unpredictable, and just like the early 1990s election that saw Republican Bret Schundler elected in a special election, an unexpected candidate might slip in.
Among the most prominent names for possible opposition candidate is former Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who could possibly benefit from the dissatisfaction of some former Fulop supporters. A Healy run would depend significantly upon how much of the old political machine he can reassemble. In the past, Healy was able to partner with people like former Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith who headed the Hudson County Democratic Organization. But control of the HCDO has moved on and the organization would not automatically take a side in a Jersey City election.
Councilman Richard Boggiano, who successfully beat the Fulop machine in 2013 to get elected, is also perceived as a possible mayoral candidate. He and Councilman Michael Yun have been very vocal critics of Fulop policies. Boggiano, who historically has been strong in the Journal Square area, appears to have gained popularity in other working class parts of the city.
With growing dissatisfaction in the African-American community with some of Fulop’s policies, you can bet that candidates will emerge both for City Council and mayor. Among these will likely be former Councilwoman Viola Richardson, who has been extremely vocal about the problems in Ward F and Ward A, especially in regards to crime. Even if she doesn’t run for mayor, Richardson will likely be part of a strong ticket challenging the Fulop administration’s policies.
Hoboken remains a mess
After more than a month since a devastating council defeat, those opposed to Mayor Dawn Zimmer may be in worse shape than ever before.
Freeholder Anthony Romano managed to bring in two of three candidates in the school board election, but in the council election, anti-Zimmer council candidates lost four out of six races.
During the first few days after the election, the anti-Zimmer forces said old differences have been settled. Ruben Ramos was able to beat Councilman Tim Occhipinti, despite Zimmer-supported third candidate Dana Wefer’s presence in the race.
Councilman Michael Russo was, of course, unopposed.
Many of those who opposed Ramos when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013 were pushed out of office, suggesting that he had cleaned house for a possible united run in 2017. Ramos is expected to again throw his hat in the ring for a mayoral bid.
The problem is, Romano is also likely to run, as in 2013. Romano already held a very successful fundraiser last week. He appears to be gathering a lot of support from local labor unions. In the 2013 election, many unions – in anticipation of new development – supported Zimmer with donations to her campaign. Some believe there has been a shift in union support away from her and to Romano.
Still, the split in anti-Zimmer forces will give Zimmer (if she chooses to run) or someone aligned with her a distinct advantage, and could result in Zimmer retaining the mayoral as well as all three at-large council seats.
A potential anti-Zimmer candidate, Carmelo Garcia, who was soundly beaten by Councilwoman Jennifer Giattino in the 6th Ward in November, said he will run for an at-large council seat in 2017. But who will he run with? And will he have the same clout he had when he was an assemblyman and executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority?
Garcia would have to bring a lot of votes to the table for Ramos or Romano to consider adding him to their ticket.
While there are a number of ambitious people in the Zimmer camp hoping to rise to another level of public office and might hope to take her place, their differences with Zimmer are mild compared to the nearly blood feud anti-Zimmer people are engaged in.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.