Is Fulop desperate?

Some people claim that the power brokers behind Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor have taken the gloves off to bring local political bigwigs into line.

Apparently they are particularly concerned about two African-American leaders, State Sen. Sandra Cunningham of Jersey City and Rep. Donald Payne of Newark. Fulop’s campaign strategy relies on a united Hudson County, plus the voter base in Newark and a similar voter base in Paterson.

If Cunningham and Payne support Fulop’s chief rival, state Senate Pres. Steven Sweeney, this might erode Fulop’s base. While many agree that in a head-to-head primary Fulop would probably still beat Sweeney, the campaigns of other Democratic candidates in the race, including Phil Murphy, appear to be picking up speed.

Although Cunningham and Payne might lose their current seats if Fulop is successful, Sweeney (with his South Jersey power broker friend George Norcross in the background) has the ability to find them a new place. The rumored threat against Payne is somewhat ironic, since some of those who are supposedly pressuring Payne to fall into line are the same people who pushed to have him fill his late father’s congressional seat in the first place.

Moving the election means campaign money for Fulop

Theories abound as to why Fulop has abandoned his effort to do away with runoff elections as he tries to get voters this fall to approve moving the 2017 municipal elections from May to November. Many have assumed the rescheduling of the Jersey City vote would give Fulop a safety net that would allow him to run for mayor in November if he fails to win the Democratic nomination for governor this June.

But the move may have more to do with Fulop’s ability to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign than any desire to return as mayor.

If the local election is still held in May, that forces Fulop to choose between running for governor or for mayor. If he decides to run for governor, professionals and others currently doing business with the city may not want to contribute to him any more. Instead, they will seek out the most likely successor, a candidate for mayor who will continue to allow them to do business in Jersey City.

But if Fulop delays the municipal election until November, he continues to be relevant when it comes to awarding contracts in Jersey City, which more or less guarantees continued support at least until he officially leaves office as mayor.

If Fulop fails to get the nomination for governor in next year’s June primary, he may still want to run for reelection as mayor, but he will have to shove aside a number of people currently loyal to him in order to do so. Most people presume that Freeholder Bill O’Dea is raising money for a mayoral campaign and other political heavyweights are putting together slates of candidates on the off-chance that the elections might still be held in May.

Traditionally, the slates for mayor and council are assembled the summer prior to the May election, partly in order to assure a mayoral hopeful the best choice of candidates. If you wait too long to lock a council candidate into your slate, you will likely lose him to another slate.

Matsikoudis is running for mayor

Bill Matsikoudis, once the corporation counsel under former Mayor Jerramiah Healy, has set up a mayoral candidate committee and filed hisELEC forms in July, formally setting the stage for his run for mayor.

Matsikoudis is currently the only candidate who has filed withELEC, except for Fulop.

But his campaign says a formal announcement of a slate will not likely take place until November, after voters choose whether to move the election from May to November for next year’s election.

Matsikoudis has been at the forefront of those against moving the election.

When a resignation is not a resignation

Bayonne School Board Trustee Barry Kushnir resigned from his position – then he took it back, apparently to avoid forcing the board to pick a replacement ahead of the upcoming election in November. By delaying his resignation, the board can leave the seat open, which has alarmed several of the potential candidates who applied to be considered.

Some of these candidates suspected something was amiss when the board decided not to interview anybody and told several of the applicants that the decision would be made based on resume, rather than the process that had been adopted for previous board replacements.

Meanwhile, some board members were negotiating with Kushnir to reconsider the date of his resignation.

At least one of the potential candidates said he is considering legal action over the board’s sudden shift in policy.

Kushnir originally resigned in late July, kicking off a state-mandated deadline of 65 days for the board to name a replacement – otherwise, the county superintendent of schools would name someone. By rescheduling his resignation date until early September, Kushnir voided the time clock, allowing the board to keep the seat open until voters decide in November. The person elected to Kushner’s seat, however, will take the seat as soon as the county certifies the election, while the other candidates will have to wait until their terms start early next year.

Kushnir’s resignation has almost no effect on the makeup of the board otherwise, since he had previously chosen not to seek reelection. Since some of those who applied to replace him are also candidates in November, the board’s non-decision denies them the opportunity to run as an incumbent.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com