More than a year before campaigning starts for mayor and three at-large council seats in Hoboken, the leading opponents of Mayor Dawn Zimmer have apparently met to come to an agreement to support a single candidate to oppose her.
If the agreement holds, Councilmen Michael Russo and Ruben Ramos, as well as former school board trustee Frank Raia have allegedly agreed to support Freeholder Anthony Romano.
But don’t hold your breath. Political positions change in a blink of an eye, and in Hoboken even quicker. The meeting in which the agreement was allegedly forged strongly resembles the Munich meeting in 1938 in which the British hoped to avert all-out war in Europe. As with Munich, none of the participants in the Hoboken meeting completely trust each other, especially in regard to Raia – who some believe deliberately ran a third party in 2013 that allowed Zimmer to win reelection in order to secure his reappointment to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
If true, Raia was betrayed by the Zimmer administration who eventually appointed another candidate to the seat. To be fair, Raia’s reappointment did have the support of Councilman Ravi Bhalla, and also apparently Mayor Zimmer herself. But other council members associated with the Zimmer administration appear to be as wary of Raia – a wealthy developer — as Zimmer opposition is.
This distrust of Raia in the anti-Zimmer coalition reignited when reports surfaced that Raia was once more lobbying for a seat on the sewerage authority, a seat currently occupied by one-time Zimmer loyalist Tony Soares.
Soares, one of the founders of the Hoboken reform movement in the late 1990s, has fallen from grace partly because a career change into real estate allowed him to get a better view of the issues faced by local businesses. His criticism of Zimmer in regards to business in Hoboken has cast him out of the inner circle, and could see him dumped from his seat on the sewerage authority.
The meeting of Zimmer opponents apparently attempted to ferret out Raia’s intentions, and at least for the moment has resulted in appeasement. Rumors suggest that Russo, if the opposition regains control of the City Council, would be named council president. What Ramos gets out of the deal remains a mystery, since Ramos also had his eye on the mayor’s seat.
Another prince emerges in Jersey City?
Jimmy Carroll, a well-connected political figure in Jersey City, appears to be the latest in a long line of rumored possible replacements for Mayor Steven Fulop – if Fulop runs for governor as expected.
This could be a significant blow to Freeholder Bill O’Dea, who held a fundraiser last week in which Fulop sang his praises. O’Dea was for a time seen as the prominent candidate to replace Fulop.
Carroll is seen as a bright and capable who might well successfully continue the Fulop legacy in Jersey City, but he may not have the political wherewithal to beat O’Dea’s West Side political machine.
But his name emerges after a long list of other possible candidates. Although O’Dea wore the mantle of heir apparent for more than a year, until recently, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji was being touted behind the scenes to replace Fulop as mayor. It is unclear as to why he fell out of favor.
Some other potential candidates include former Assemblyman Sean Connors, who joked about the situation.
“I’m not with Fulop because I was never seen as part of his team,” he said.
Connors is joined by Councilmen Michael Yun and Richard Boggiano in having aspirations to become mayor.
Voters will get a chance to vote on a referendum this November to move the election from May to November. This will have a huge effect on the field of candidates. If rejected, the Fulop will be forced to choose between running in the primary for governor or running for reelection as mayor.
He appears to have backed off a move to ask voters to eliminate runoff elections as well.
Councilwoman Candice Osborne, usually on the same page as Fulop, said she opposes the second referendum on doing away with runoffs.
“It would simply confuse the issue,” she said.
Osborne favors the move in order to bring more people to the polls.
What a turnaround
Fulop’s support of Board of Education candidates Sudham Thomas, Angel Valentin, and Gina Verdibello has turned the board on its head, since this will shift the balance of power on the board.
Fulop helped orchestrate an overthrow of the old board three years ago, casting out many of the old guard in favor of more progressive candidates that better reflected the changing population of the city.
His political machine allowed these progressives to take control and ultimately led to the appointment of Dr. Marica Lyles as the new superintendent.
However, the board went against Fulop’s overdevelopment plans involving pre-k classrooms, a turning point that has since seen Fulop support candidates running against them.
Fulop’s turnaround in regards to Board of Education candidates may have to do with his need for state teachers’ union support in his upcoming bid for governor. This has raised the eyebrows of a few original Fulop supporters who see this as politics as usual, and not the reformer they helped get elected as mayor.
Will Davis and Zimmer support other candidates for governor?
State politics could also divide Hudson County with Hoboken Mayor Zimmer and possibly Bayonne Mayor James Davis supporting Democratic candidates in the gubernatorial other than Fulop.
One close associate of Zimmer has joined Phil Murphy’s campaign, while one of her council people reportedly recently attended a Murphy fundraiser. Zimmer herself attended a Murphy event last November at the annual League of Municipalities Convention. Ill feelings between Zimmer and Fulop appear to have started around that time.
Meanwhile, Davis owes a debt to state Sen. Ray Lesniak for Lesniak’s support in his bid for mayor. While it is possible Lesniak might bow out of the governor’s race, he will likely seek support for another candidate – possibly Murphy.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org