Gov. Christopher Christie is talking about cutting $100 million in extra state education aid to Jersey City just at a time when Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is gearing up to run for the Democratic nomination for governor.
This funding is above and beyond the usual state aid for an Abbott district, designed to help offset the loss of funding that comes as a result of tax abatements.
School board members in Jersey City believe the loss of funding would create havoc in the district.
So this leads some to ponder the relationship between Christie and Democratic state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who is expected to be Fulop’s main opponent in the Democratic primary in June 2017.
If the aid is cut, this would be the second serious financial blow the state has imposed on Jersey City. The state recently ordered Jersey City to do a revaluation and have it completed prior to the 2017 election.
So if Jersey City is in fiscal chaos, this could help a Republican candidate for governor. Or if Fulop loses the primary in June 2017, most believe he will run for reelection as mayor, and the one-two punch of reval and lost school aid would have a negative impact on that election as well.
At this point, most of the politically powerful in Hudson County appear to support Fulop’s gubernatorial efforts – except perhaps for Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Zimmer has met with Phil Murphy at least once, and so may be falling in line with the efforts of Southern New Jersey power broker George Norcross.
But as one savvy local political observer pointed out, Murphy is too much like former Gov. Jon Corzine, and the last thing New Jersey needs is a Corzine clone.
Fulop is putting a lot of hope in the upcoming binding referendum that will move the municipal elections from May to November.
Fulop has been selling the idea that a November election will bring more voters out. But this could spell his ruin as well, since a non-binding resolution barely passed with 9,000 votes cast last November. The binding resolution, as my savvy political observer noted, could bring out many times that number – and it is very unclear if those voters will support the change.
Sweeney could also throw a monkey wrench into the works if he asks his close ally, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham to come out against the move.
Ward F and Ward A were clearly against the last referendum, and if voters there come out in large enough numbers this November, the binding resolution could fail.
This would force Fulop to have to choose between running for mayor or for governor, a decision that would make Hamlet quake.
But what if Fulop wins the Democratic nod for governor?
Assuming Fulop gets the gubernatorial nomination, many foresee a free for all election to replace him as mayor with no clear frontrunner.
There is no shortage of contenders.
The most prominent are Council President Rolando Lavaro, Freeholder Bill O’Dea and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji.
Lavaro has significant presence due in part to his position of council president. The question is whether he can raise enough money for what many see as a very expensive election. He would also have to run a full ticket of council candidates. Will he be able to rely on those council people who ran with Fulop in the past? Councilwoman Diane Coleman is running for county register, not reelection to the council. There is some question as to whether Frank Gajewski will run for reelection or whether Khemraj ‘Chico’ Ramchal will be able to run.
O’Dea and Raj appear to be the most likely princes waiting to replace Fulop. Both can raise money, but O’Dea already has significant name recognition, a proven political machine and significant ties to organized labor. O’Dea is seen as the Bill Clinton of Jersey City in that he is well-loved in the African-American community.
Mukherji, who has been making the rounds of Hudson County political events, also has real creditability due to his one time role as the executive director of the Jersey City Housing Authority. Both men can most likely put together a full ticket of council candidates and raise money.
The field could also include Councilman Richard Boggiano, former Assemblyman Sean Connors, even former City Attorney Bill Matsikoudis. But the race will only be a contest if Fulop does not run for reelection.
The big question is why there is no prominent Latino candidate for mayor in a city that is rich with Latino voters.
Happy birthday, baby
Fulop has adopted a political technique that state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack has been using for years: sending out birthday cards. For those of us with birthdays this month, we get something that might have made a good Bruce Springsteen album cover: Greetings from Jersey City. Inside the card, we get a picture of Steven Fulop and a comment that says “I want to take a moment to offer best wishes on your special day.” The scribble above his printed name must be his signature. But the most revealing message comes in tiny print on the back of the card “Paid for by the Jersey City Democratic Organization. Not paid for at taxpayers’ expense.” This is followed by the symbol showing that the card was printed using a union shop.
Recall staggers along in Bayonne
If anyone actually believes they can recall Bayonne Jimmy Davis, then I have a bridge to sell them – perhaps even the Bayonne Bridge.
The recall has been launched by a group of former Davis supporters who apparently are unhappy with the way things turned out after the election. In other words, the anti-Davis crowd didn’t get what they wanted to get and now they’re angry about it.
This does not include supporters of former Mayor Mark Smith. The Smith people appear to have stepped back to wait to see what transpires.
The recall has a number of significant problems. First, it will have to gather thousands of signatures of registered voters, somewhere around 8,000.
Then, the recall will have to find a worthy candidate to replace Davis. Since the anti-Davis people behind the recall distrust anyone associated with Smith or even the previous mayor, Joe Doria, there aren’t a lot of potential candidates left.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.