Dividing the Democrats in Hudson County
Republican Gov. Christopher Christie must be laughing up his sleeve at the prospect of a new Hudson County Democratic civil war just in time for his 2013 reelection.
Historically, Hudson County is the base from which Democratic candidates get elected governor, and if Christie can keep the Hudson County Democratic Organization from gathering its usual 60,000 votes for the Democratic challenger in 2013, Christie will likely win reelection.
While Democratic State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack may not be aware that he is doing Christie’s bidding, there is nearly a line at the Coach House Diner lately, where he is meeting with prospective candidates for an alternative Democratic countywide ticket in 2013.
The last time Stack seriously backed an alternative ticket was in 2007, and the results weren’t pretty. While he carried the 33rd state legislative district because of his plurality of votes in Union City, nearly all the candidates that hitched their wagon to him outside of his district were overrun by the HCDO.
In 2007, however, Stack couldn’t get Sandra Cunningham to run on his ticket. She made a deal with the HCDO at the last minute, and ran on their line, beating Assemblyman Louis Manzo and his ticket decisively.
Stack put up a few candidates in the 32nd District against his chief rival, state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, but that ticket was poorly funded. This allowed Sacco to pour money into the races elsewhere in the county, especially in Bayonne and southern Jersey City.
But a lot has changed since 2007, in particular, the HCDO itself, which is hardly as strong as it once was.
Hoboken and West New York no longer fall into line as they had in the past, and may well see themselves more as allies of Christie than any candidate the Democrats put up to oppose the governor.
Stack’s relationship with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has improved dramatically over the last few months as his relationship with Assemblyman Ruben Ramos declines.
Zimmer is becoming stronger with every passing month, making bold moves that show her confidence in her ability to lead. She even showed up for the HDCO leadership meeting even though she was not invited, and took a seat between HCDO Chairman and Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. Although Stack and West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque were also there, they had been invited.
Agree with Zimmer or not, Hudson County Democrats need to make peace at least for this year if they want to help get Menendez and President Barack Obama reelected, and Zimmer’s influence will help carry Hoboken if they can woo her to their cause – and not worry about the 2013 elections until they occur.
Stack, meanwhile, appears to be singing a siren song to Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason these days, hoping to tap into her wealth to help cover the cost of an alternative ticket. The 2007 uprising cost Stack a pretty penny and left him in debt for more than a year. This time, he looks to be setting up finances ahead of the election.
West New York could produce challenger to Sacco
The other significant change from 2007 is the redistricting that put West New York in Sacco’s district for the first time, and may explain the meeting at the Coach House between Stack and Dr. Roque. Could it be that Stack would like Dr. Roque to run for state Senate against Sacco?
This would be payback for Sacco’s backing of then-West New York Mayor Sal Vega against Stack five years ago when Stack sought the state Senate seat. That election left bitter feelings between Hudson County’s two most powerful political leaders.
Stack apparently is apparently looking to lure State Sen. Cunningham to run with him on his ticket, which would almost guarantee a victory in the 31st District and a victory for any candidate his ticket puts up for county sheriff.
Stack apparently is hoping to draft Christian Araujo for his sheriff’s candidate. Araujo ran in the Republican primary against Sheriff Juan Perez two years ago. Perez, who is already running for sheriff, would likely make a better choice for Stack, if Stack can get over past differences.
Stick was not approached to run for sheriff
Meanwhile, someone is spreading the rumor that Freeholder Anthony “Stick” Romano may run either for sheriff or state Assembly.
“I have not been approached by anyone for either,” Romano said.
And he is apparently not interested in betraying the trusts of people like Smith or Sacco, both of whom took his side when other people wanted to remove him as the Democratic candidate for the freeholder seat, representing Hoboken and part of Jersey City.
Although there may be a nuclear war brewing between the two political emperors of North Hudson, Romano said he’s not going to get in the middle of it.
Staffers at the Coach House say that numerous political people come in there regularly, several of whom apparently have met with Stack there, including former and future Hoboken mayoral candidate Frank Raia, Jersey City Mayor Jeramiah Healy, and others.
Knowledgeable political observes believe that Stack may be eying Hoboken Council President Ravi Bhalla (a Zimmer ally) as a possible Assembly candidate on his ticket.