You would think that with all the air trips U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez allegedly took on the private jet of a wealthy political donor, Menendez would qualify for frequent flyer miles. Of course, jets are not the only thing flying these days through the political air, as Fox News and other lesser media outlets do their best to cast mud in the direction of political figures.
Mudslinging generally becomes the last alternative of desperate people who can’t normally win at the polls. And this isn’t just a Republican/Democrat issue, since behind the scenes, Democrats sometimes use Republicans as a smoke screen for attacking other Democrats, and vice versa.
This may be the case with the recent televising of yet another “Shame on You” episode by Arnold Diaz, as this column predicted last September, trying to shake the public’s faith in State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack. Diaz claims Stack is using a federally-subsidized bus service to transport wealthy residents of a condo development to and from public transportation hubs, implying that somehow the poor people of Union City are being deprived by the alleged misuse of resources.
To quote an official from another Hudson County town, “Nobody does more for the poor in Union City than Brian Stack does.”
This unprecedented second visit from a well-established conservative media newscaster seems to be the latest mantra in the anti-Stack media campaign being waged to keep him from fielding candidates in an all-out Democratic civil war in Hudson County. But the gadflies spreading this latest political gossip were the same gadflies that criticize Stack for his close relationship with Republican Gov. Christopher Christie, and cite Stack’s ability to exploit that relationship to bring massive amounts of state aid to Union City not available to other municipalities in Hudson County.
So on one hand, critics condemn Stack for bringing too much money into Union City – which he largely uses to help underprivileged people – and on the other hand, condemn him for helping wealthy residents as well.
Jersey City municipal election has wider implications
Although Jimmy Carroll may be singing Stack’s praises these days in anticipation of a civil war that will allow Carroll to run for county sheriff with Stack’s blessing, the real war won’t likely be the open primary conflict that we saw in 2008, when Stack fielded full tickets throughout the county. The war will be for control of Jersey City, as Stack lines up behind Mayor Jerramiah Healy in an attempt to fend off the mayoral bid of Councilman Steven Fulop.
Although state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco has yet to declare his support for Fulop, so many of his close associates have done so that he might as well do it too.
This will likely pit Sacco against Stack, Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, and most likely State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, who have either already declared their support for Healy or are expected to.
In some ways, this is a back door to control of Hudson County, since an alliance between Stack, Cunningham, Smith, and Healy would set the stage for the 2014 county elections, including the county executive’s office and the vast patronage jobs that come with it. The alliance would isolate Sacco, who currently has significant influence on jobs through the Hudson County’s sheriff’s office and the Hudson County Schools of Technology.
A Healy victory could create a new unofficial union between Stack, Cunningham, Healy, and Smith and determine who gets a number of legal and other contracts awarded by the county each year, a lucrative bit of patronage currently enjoyed by some well-established Sacco supporters.
Jersey City election won’t be easy
Even if Fulop manages to eke out a victory in May or in a runoff in June, he may not have control of the City Council. Some political observers believe that the voters will likely pick and choose from the menu of candidates rather than vote on whole tickets, and even then, some of the candidates in both Healy and Fulop camps are likely to vote their own minds rather than along with the mayor they ran with, posing serious questions about what the next four years will look like as far as actually running government.
Fulop, if he does win, is also going to find himself in an unenviable position of being expected to reward his followers with jobs and other perks that may not be available. Reformers generally say one thing to get elected only to discover that they can’t do what they said they would do once they get into office. This is particularly true in filling key positions. Reformers tend to either keep the competent people they inherit or replace them with uncertain, often incompetent people. Either way, Fulop loses support among his followers. Some followers may gravitate to a new reform leader – and this could be Dan Levin, who many Fulop people already admire and regret not having him on the Fulop ticket.
What was Diane Coleman thinking in her joke about nearly everyone in Ward F having a criminal record? If anything will bring out the African-American community against her and her running mate, Fulop, remarks of this kind will. There is already a perception of elitism that the Fulop ticket needs to overcome in Ward F and other racially-charged parts of the city. Coleman was a good choice to help bridge the divide – that is, until she came out with this joke. You can bet the Healy campaign will make the most of it.
Ramos for mayor?
Insiders in the Hudson County Democratic Organization said last week that Assemblyman Ruben Ramos will not seek reelection on the Stack ticket, but has already begun to build a campaign for mayor against Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer in November.
Ramos is apparently trying to drum up support among the fractured anti-Zimmer coalition, hoping to get the various factions to support him rather than run multiple candidates. With no runoff election, Zimmer would easily outdistance other candidates with a divided opposition.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.