Only six months after Dawn Zimmer lost her first mayoral race in Hoboken, she is now about to be inaugurated as the first female mayor of Hoboken – and the first female mayor in Hudson County history.
This past Tuesday, Zimmer won a special election that was held after the winner of the June mayoral runoff, Peter Cammarano, resigned his post due to a corruption arrest.
Zimmer will take the oath of office publically next weekend, officials said. Then, she will begin serving out the last three and a half years of Cammarano’s term. There probably will also be a battle to fill her 4th Ward council seat (see sidebar).
The new mayor’s green-shirted army of volunteers swarmed Hoboken last week and were rewarded with a clear victory on election night. Zimmer bested 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason, former Board of Education President Frank “Pupie” Raia, and former Municipal Judge Kimberly Glatt, as well as three more minor candidates.
Zimmer received 5,621 votes; Mason, 3,038; Raia, 2,665; and Glatt, 1,380. These numbers include the approximately 1,200 absentee ballots cast, but don’t include the handful of provisional ballots that are submitted at the polls when a voter’s eligibility is questioned. Those numbers are too small this time to make a difference in the results.
Republican candidate Nathan Brinkman received 567 votes; former corrections officer Patricia Waiters got 87; and Stevens Institute of Technology graduate student Everton Wilson amassed 39 votes. Wilson announced this past Thursday that doctors have told him he may only have four or five years to live (see briefs, inside).
There were also several write-in votes, including 12 for Hoboken-based comedian Artie Lange and one each for Dolly Parton, Bruce Willis, “Goofy,” and other luminaries.
Zimmer was certified as the winner of the election on Friday and took the oath office the same day. Watch www.hudsonreporter.com for details on her upcoming inauguration ceremony.
The woman in charge
Last week, Zimmer said she was surprised to learn that she was the first female mayor in all of Hudson County.
“I had no idea,” she said in an interview. “I’m honored. I think that we need more women in politics.”
It’s not like Zimmer was heading towards City Hall from the get-go. She says she was just another resident incensed by our-of-control development in Hoboken. She went to a City Council meeting to let her voice be heard.
Now she is the voice of the city.
“What’s most important is that I’m an example for people who have concerns about the community and want to get involved,” she said. “It’s sad that people are generally scared – especially in Hoboken – about getting involved. I’m proud that I’m now in a position to do something about it.”
She is very proud of her campaign. They under-spent the three other major campaigns, including Mason’s, which amassed almost $400,000 in largely self-funded donations. By contrast, Zimmer overloaded the streets with volunteers.
“I think it’s a shame that so much money is spent on elections in our town,” Zimmer said. “I think the cost of campaigns prevents qualified people from getting involved.”
Zimmer believes she is the first winning candidate in recent years to not have run any television commercials.
She hopes the grass-roots, low-cost campaign becomes a template for other aspiring public servants running for office.
She said her job will be somewhat easier now that she has been elected. Her temporary position as acting mayor, which she took over after Cammarano resigned, had no clout behind it, she said. Some issues, she said, like finding interested partners to build a new municipal garage, were hard to navigate without any permanence to her position.
“I’m going to continue to work my hardest,” she said, “to reach out to everyone in Hoboken.”
One thing Zimmer will have to do is present a town budget. The budget year started this past July 1, but Hoboken’s budget, like most municipalities, is often late. The state-appointed Hoboken fiscal monitor, Judy Tripodi, said that taxes will go down this year after a big hike last year.
Zimmer addressed the crowd gathered in front of her headquarters on Tuesday night to chants of “Dawn, Dawn, Dawn.”
“I want to thank each of you,” she said. “There’s so many moms and dads out here tonight who pushed away their busy schedule to come out and campaign. There’s so many single people that put aside their job search and their social life to help me with my campaign. There’s so many children who put on t-shirts – willingly or unwillingly – to increase the visibility. And there’s so many wonderful dogs, from big old Milo to little Lola.”
When asked what she attributed the win to, she cited her “Green Machine.”
“Money can’t buy dedicated volunteers,” she told television crews.
Originally from New Hampshire, Zimmer moved to Hoboken six years ago after spending time in Japan and New York City. In the past, she has worked as a crisis management coordinator. She has a passion for photography and bicycle riding.
She lives on Madison Street with her husband, Stan Grossbard, and two children.
The Mason and Raia votes
With thousands of Hoboken voters choosing native Hobokenites like Raia and Glatt on Tuesday, and thousands more choosing Zimmer critic Beth Mason, Zimmer will still have to prove to many people that she was the best choice.
However, in every ward in the city, Zimmer got the most votes, even in Mason’s own 2nd Ward.
Zimmer had campaigned initially this past spring as a reform candidate. Mason had done the same, but Mason’s supporters and Zimmer’s supporters had frequently been involved in clashes of egos, especially when trading barbs on the internet. Thus, former allies turned into fierce rivals.
Several decisions made over the past year by Mason seemed to tarnish her reformer status, including allying herself with certain old-time political groups and consultants.
In a letter to the editor of the Reporter this week, Mason writes that she and Zimmer “disagree on many things, but in the end I am sure that we have the same objective in our hearts – making Hoboken the best it can possibly be. I look forward to working with Dawn to fix the problems our city faces.”
For previous stories on the election and for breaking news, go to www.hudsonreporter.com.
Lenz, Soares, others may vie for empty seat
New Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s 4th Ward council seat was vacated Friday when she submitted a letter of resignation from the council, according to a city spokesman.
Corporation Counsel Steven Kleinman said the council now has 30 days to fill the seat with an interim replacement, or leave the seat vacant. The seat will be up for grabs in the next general election, November 2010.
Sources say that the council, which would have eight remaining members, will probably come to a consensus in the near future on someone who can serve until next November. They can vote as early as the next council meeting, which will be held Monday, Nov. 16.
Names being floated include former city CFO Michael Lenz, former Councilman Tony Soares, Housing Authority Commissioner Jake Stuiver, Zimmer backer Rami Pinchevsky, and others.
Without Zimmer, the council is left with an even amount of members, possibly leading to a 4-4 tie for the interim replacement. In that case, Kleinman said, the mayor is permitted to break the tie.
Zimmer said she has a short list of possible candidates.
“There are a number of qualified people,” she said, adding that she and the council may hold interviews with the potential candidates.
Some possible candidates, like former Councilwoman Terry LaBruno and former council candidate Timothy Occipinti, are rumored to be considering a run for next November’s election, but most likely will not be appointed as an interim replacement. All candidates live in the 4th Ward.
Soares and Lenz have been vocal Zimmer supporters over the past few years.
Soares said that the choice is the City Council’s decision.
“It all depends,” he said. “It’s up to the council.”
He said he is interested in the position, even though he would be forced to resign his newly-appointed seat on the Zoning Board.
“I’ve spent 19 years in the 4th Ward,” he said. “I’m not looking to disrupt the current situation [on the council], but they could be aided.”
Lenz said, “The 4th Ward is my home. If I was picked to represent it, I’d be honored to accept.”
Lenz’s name has also come up in discussions about the recently-vacated CFO position at Hoboken University Medical Center.
Last week, Lenz said, “I think hospital administration is a special field, and I hope they choose someone with experience in that field. I have none.”
Lenz had worked as the campaign manager to Mayor David Roberts eight years ago, and then was hired as Roberts’ CFO at City Hall. However, he was terminated. Then, he filed a lawsuit saying the firing was for political reasons. He won a six-figure settlement.
Stuiver, who was Mason’s campaign manager last spring and then switched his allegiance to Zimmer this time, said, “Right now I’m very focused on fulfilling my responsibilities in the Housing Authority and being the best commissioner I can possibly be. I love the 4th Ward and would be honored to serve the community in whatever way the mayor and council deem appropriate.”
Pinchevsky admitted he would like to be considered and offered up a politically-correct answer similar to all the other potential candidates.
“I will be supporting whoever the mayor and the council majority support,” he said.
Pinchevsky is a pension actuary in Secaucus and he said the analytical and communication skills he employs would serve him well as a 4th Ward representative.
Occipinti, who lost a bid for an at-large seat in May, said he is mulling it over.
“I had a great experience in the spring. I’d like to remain active,” he said. “As far as a run in the future, it’s something I would consider. But my main focus is staying active.”
LaBruno could not be reached for comment by press time.
The 4th Ward is typically a heated battleground. It contains the public housing projects as well as new luxury condos. During Zimmer’s race for that council seat two years ago, she endured a long battle with incumbent Christopher Campos that resulted in allegations of voter fraud from both sides.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.