A mayoral nightmare

Because they would need to rely heavily on a suddenly shaky political machine, the reports that Assemblyman Raj Mukherji and Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro will not run for mayor against Mayor Steven Fulop are not a great surprise.

Mayor Fulop announced last week he will seek reelection rather than run for governor. But the machine that got Fulop elected in 2013 won’t be the same machine in 2016 and this has encouraged Fulop’s opponents.

The most significant question is whether Tom Bertoli and Eugene McKnight will continue to work behind the scenes.

Reports suggest there is a rift between Bertoli and Fulop, and not just over Fulop’s surprise announcement last week to abandon the gubernatorial race. Something predated that event that sent the two men in politically different directions. If Fulop migrated to Trenton, Bertoli was always going to remain working in Jersey City and Hudson County on Fulop’s behalf. Whether or not Bertoli will continue to help Fulop’s mayoral campaign remains unclear.

Most people credit McKnight with helping get Diane Coleman elected to the City Council in 2009, allowing Fulop to get a majority on the council. With Coleman running for the position of county register, McKnight might be needed to repeat this upset and find a new candidate in Ward F. But will he?

Coleman isn’t the only vacancy in Fulop’s new ticket. Ward A Councilman Frank Gajewski may not run, giving opponents an opportunity to possibly pick up more seats, building on the two anti-administration council seats held by Councilmen Richard Boggiano and Michael Yun.

While Mukherji and Lavarro won’t run for mayor, the same cannot be said for Freeholder Bill O’Dea, whose alliance with Fulop in 2013 helped generate strong support on the West Side of Jersey City.

Councilman John Hallanan, who took over after “Chico” Ramchal resigned, will certainly be challenged in Ward B, even though he has endorsements from some of the most powerful local politicians. His biggest challenger is Chris Gadsden, vice principal at Lincoln School. A local business owner, LeKendrick Shaw, is also reportedly running.

Fulop’s announcement that he will seek reelection as mayor could also reduce the number of candidates from the opposition as well, candidates who might have been willing to throw their hat into the ring for a race where there is no incumbent, but don’t have the money to compete with Fulop’s potentially rich campaign coffers.

Not about Lyles at all

The election for Jersey City Board of Education is heating up again. While the race features a number of independent candidates, two groups appear to be going head to head again, continuing the battle over Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles and the perception that the expansion of charter schools may be draining resources from public schools in the district.

Four years ago, Parents for Progress successfully gained control of the school board and thus the appointment of Lyles at the new superintendent. Since then, a dramatic shift has largely reversed their control, although it could not void the decision by a lame duck board last December to renew Lyles’ contract for another four years a few weeks before a new largely anti-Lyles board was sworn in.

With the decision of three strong Lyles advocates not to run for reelection, this election is poised to populate next year’s board with members diametrically opposed to the philosophy that Parents of Progress proposed.

With Mayor Fulop’s endorsement, candidates supported by teachers’ union (which is also anti-Lyles) have a strong chance of sweeping the seats and steering the district in a whole new direction.

Although pro-Lyles board members paint the conflict as one for or against Lyles, their opposition say it’s not about Lyles at all, but about a continuing campaign to defund public schools, often promoting charter schools that do not handle some of the social issues public schools do.

Resignation becomes issue in Secaucus school board race

The resignation of John Scheiner as the superintendent of buildings and grounds for Secaucus schools has become a political issue in the school board election. Scheiner was originally hired in July 2015 at a special meeting not publically advertised, raising eyebrows, and has elicited complaints about due process from Tom Troyer, who is once more running for one of three board seats.

Scheiner’s resignation was as much of a surprise to many as his appointment was, and the always-watchful Troyer appears to be seeking to use it as an issue in his campaign.

The issue comes at a time when the board has been approving a large number of change orders on the expansion at the high school, and Troyer has been appearing frequently at school board meetings attempting to use the issue to broker his way onto the board again.

A former member of the Board of Education several times since the 1970s, Troyer has failed to win reelection over the last four years, in part because of his continued opposition to Mayor Michael Gonnelli.

The great debate: Young Republicans vs. Young Democrats

Although not reaching the same seismic proportions as a debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Hudson County Young Democrats and Young Republicans announced this week a bipartisan collaboration to enlighten and educate the community on their different points of view on issues facing the world, the nation, and the state of New Jersey. The first Hudson County debate will be held on Monday, Oct. 17 at Willie McBride’s, 616 Grand St., Hoboken. Happy Hour begins at 6:30 p.m. with the debate starting at 7:30 p.m. Ticket price is $10 and can be purchased at the door or online on the Hudson County Young Democrats website.

The debate will feature two representatives of each group and be moderated by Mark Bonamo, formerly of the Hudson Reporter and now the editor-in-chief of NewarkInc.com. The event will consist of three parts: a happy hour meet and greet, a debate of pre-selected issues, followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Proceeds from the event will go to local Hoboken non-profit True Mentors (www.truementors.org).

Both groups hope to bring together members of the community from across the political spectrum in what has been for both parties a divisive presidential election. Organizers look forward to highlighting their policy differences in an engaging and meaningful way.

For more information about the Hudson County Young Democrats, visit their website at: www.hudsonyoungdems.com. For more information about the Hudson County Young Republicans, visitfacebook.com/HudsonGOP.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com