Freeholder Bill O’Dea is absolutely convinced he has the heads up in the upcoming election for mayor of Jersey City. This is a long-held dream, a kind of jigsaw puzzle he’s been working on for years. And now he’s on the verge of getting the last of the pieces in place. O’Dea’s is an old-style politician, building a political machine that he hopes can carry him into highest office.
He doesn’t see any of the potential contenders with anywhere near the organization he has. While he apparently isn’t taking anything for granted, he’s confident.
The current Jersey City mayor, Steven Fulop, won his bid for mayor in 2013 in a similar way. But Fulop, unlike O’Dea, made a point of kissing all the right rings of all the appropriate political bosses before making his move. Even then, Fulop did not move too soon, waiting a whole election cycle from 2009 to 2013 before making his move.
O’Dea, who is expected to leap into the 2017 mayoral race with both feet early next year, doesn’t have that option. In many ways, O’Dea has been waiting all his life, starting out as a community activist before becoming the city’s youngest councilman. He won maverick status in the 1990s when he managed to beat the Democratic political machine then headed by Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski.
And it is this maverick status that has some people wondering if the political bosses of Hudson County will give their blessing to him as they did to Fulop, or seek out a candidate who seems less controversial.
Ultimately, the next mayor of Jersey City will need the approval and support of outside political people such as attorney Donald Scarinci, state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, and state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
Many believe Stack will support O’Dea, but question whether Sacco will. This is partly because of O’Dea’s maverick past and the perception that he might turn out to be a loose cannon once elected.
No turning back for Fulop
Some people believe that Fulop may step back into the mayoral race if his bid to win the Democratic nomination for governor fails. This is the theory behind why many think Fulop wants to change the municipal elections from May to November, giving him, as they say, “two bites at the apple,” meaning the chance to run for both offices.
But in truth, Fulop can’t return to City Hall. Too many people like O’Dea have committed too many resources to the mayoral race for Fulop to sweep them aside.
Bill Matsikoudis is raising money to run, but needs to distinguish himself in order to attract investors if he hopes to compete with O’Dea. Matsikoudis has become the most visible face of the committee opposing the change of election dates, and his campaign would benefit most if the election remained in May. Although he said he expects to draw support from a wide variety of people, Matsikoudis, as the former Corporation Counsel under Mayor Jerramiah Healy, is in the best position to inherit Healy supporters and disillusioned Fulop supporters.
Supporters of the move, however, believe that an election in May rather than November allows a few local power brokers to steer the election to their candidates – although this clearly did not benefit Healy when Fulop beat him in 2013.
But people such as Councilman Michael Yun – who is also considered a potential candidate for mayor – believe this won’t be enough. The city has changed, Yun said, a new population moving into the city has changed the dynamic. The candidate who best attracts the new voter will win.
Healy’s old political machine is shattered. Some of its key players are no longer in the mix, and many people no longer feel the same loyalty for the establishment.
Is Zimmer in denial?
Several sources close to Mayor Dawn Zimmer – not to mention the Hoboken bloggers who do damage control for Zimmer – deny claims that Zimmer attended an election event for Phil Murphy.
Zimmer attended an event for New Start New Jersey, seen by some as a Murphy think tank for dealing with urban issues. Published accounts said she denied her attendance had anything to do with politics, and some people close to her claim she didn’t attend the event at all. One Zimmer person even claimed to have attended the event in Zimmer’s place as well as an event run by Fulop. But several press people who attended the event said they saw Zimmer there.
The denials come at a time when Fulop’s campaign is trying to get everybody behind his campaign for governor. If Fulop fails to get Hudson County behind him, he can’t win the nomination. Zimmer, along with Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, and Stack remain serious question marks as to whom they will back.
What’s up with the Hoboken liquor license rule?
A strange configuration of council people appears to be behind a very interesting change in liquor license rules. Michael Russo, Jim Doyle, Jen Giattino, and Ruben Ramos support a change that would allow establishments serving liquor to open within 500 feet of each other. This would not increase the number of available licenses, but could allow existing businesses to move to locations that the current law would not allow.
This seems completely contrary to Mayor Zimmer’s philosophy, and to any efforts to steer Hoboken away from its perceived status as a party town.
Insiders believe this legislation is designed to benefit one particular company in town that has recently lost its lease and must seek a new location.
This is not a new concept of making laws to benefit single businesses. But the agreement among varying factions in the council suggests that some kind of political deal has been made to get these parties to agree. So down the road somebody will have to get something for his or her vote.
Meanwhile, the deal supposedly worked out by the anti-Zimmer forces may be on the rocks. Supposedly, some of the principle members of the Zimmer opposition met to unite behind Freeholder Anthony Romano in next year’s mayoral election. They thought they had a deal that would have wealthy politico Frank Raia refraining from running a third ticket. This would avoid splitting the anti-Zimmer vote and stop her from automatically being reelected.
But recently, Raia has been telling people that no deal is in the works. So much for unity.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org