Local Democratic politicians won’t have a hard choice to make on who to support for president in the upcoming year. Hudson County is Hillary Clinton country.
But the reasons for their support will vary strongly.
With Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop gearing up to run for governor in 2017, strong support for Clinton could help bolster his efforts in next spring’s primary, although Clinton will most likely not take a side with so many powerful New Jersey Democrats vying for the nomination.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, who has been charged with corruption by federal authorities for helping a campaign donor and accepting lavish gifts from said donor, could benefit from a change of Democratic presidents.
Many political people are concerned about the Menendez charges, partly because what he allegedly did to aid a constituent is common practice. If Menendez is convicted, then it could leave numerous other congressional members open to similar accusations.
One theory suggests that Menendez might have been singled out because of his outspoken criticism of President Barack Obama’s policies regarding Cuba and Iran.
Menendez, who represents many of the families pushed out of Cuba by the excesses of Fidel Castro, objected to the lifting of restrictions on the island nation.
Menendez also questioned some of the wisdom associated with the Iran nuclear deal, suggesting that Iran cannot be trusted to live up to its side of the bargain.
Since both of these issues are destined to become part of Obama’s legacy, it is understandable that Obama might have problems with Menendez. But there has been no apparent connection made between the Justice Department’s charges and speculations about Obama’s wrath. Still, some believe a change of presidency could help Menendez since the senator has been a strong Clinton supporter for years.
Other political figures could benefit as well, provided they get onto the Clinton bandwagon early – and with so many critical elections coming up over the next two years, you can rest assured that people will be advertising their allegiance to Clinton loud and often with the hopes of later asking for her support for their efforts.
Not least of these will be during the municipal elections in Jersey City where – if Fulop successfully gets the Democratic candidacy for governor – a host of people will be seeking to be mayor.
A new day in Hoboken
New council members officially take office in Hoboken on Jan. 4. This will provide Mayor Dawn Zimmer with a super majority and the unimpeded ability to pass whatever legislation she needs to accomplish her agenda.
That means 2016 will be a true test of her administration and her ability to actually get things done.
Fractured opposition to Zimmer continues, as they look forward to the mayor/council-at-large election in 2017. If that election were held today, Zimmer would likely be reelected, simply because those opposing her can’t pull themselves together behind a single candidate. Even if Zimmer decides not to run for reelection, someone from her camp will likely benefit from the opposition’s dysfunction.
But there are some hopeful signs in the new council, including people like Michael DeFusco, who so far doesn’t seem to be simply a rubber stamp for the mayor’s policies.
Some rough years in Bayonne
Bayonne is ripe with potential real estate development, a boon for Mayor James Davis if he can get through the next year or so of financial problems.
With new developments expected to crop up like mushrooms after a heavy rain, Bayonne’s economy may well follow in the footsteps of places like Hoboken and Jersey City. But opponents of the Davis Administration hope they can capitalize on some of the serious financial issues the city must face in the meantime.
While rumors of a recall have been circulating for a while, most believe the opposition will wait until the next general election in 2018.
This is something of a gamble, since new development could actually help turn around the city’s economy just in time for a Davis reelection.
New faces rising throughout the county
For many years, there was a significant generational gap in local politics. Many young people who might have run for office locally found better opportunities on Wall Street or elsewhere, or simply found politics a disagreeable field of endeavor.
This has changed over the last few years, partly due to people like Fulop. The generational change is evident in nearly every town from Bayonne to North Bergen. New, younger faces now sit behind podiums where elder statesmen sat in the past. This reflects some of the changes that are ongoing in the population itself as the young flock back to the cities in order to take advantage of a new upscale urbanism.
This new generation of public leaders is poised to reshape the landscape, and not merely through redevelopment of old industrial sites. In Hoboken and Jersey City, and to a lesser degree in other communities, social changes are underway promoting alternative transportation, green housing environments and healthy lifestyles.
Hoboken and Jersey City seem to be testing grounds for this new set of beliefs, which are often played out in the political realm with new faces and ideas replacing those so-called tried and true ideas of the past.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.