Voters in Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken, and parts of Jersey City have the opportunity to elect one state Senate candidate and two General Assembly candidates for the 33rd District in the Democratic primary on June 4 – but there was confusion over the last two weeks over who would be on the ballots.
Hoboken City Councilman-at-Large Ravinder “Ravi” Bhalla formally announced his candidacy for one of the two Assembly seats on Wednesday. Bhalla will get a boost if Garcia remains barred from running.
Garcia is running on a ticket with State Sen. Brian Stack at the head, and Stack is hard to beat. The other Assembly candidate on Stack's ticket is Raj Mukherji of Jersey City.
The five residents who challenged Garcia's candidacy said he already had a federally funded position as head of the HHA, and that this may bar him, by law, from being an assemblyman. But Garcia said that he believed a 2012 amendment to the Hatch Act that was signed into law by President Barack Obama in January preempted the state administrative code.
Garcia said that before filing his petitions with the state, he had consulted the legal opinions of the Housing Authority’s counsel, the state’s Office of Legislative Services, and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), a Washington D.C.-based office.
Mark Albiez, a spokesman for Stack, said earlier this week that the senator had confidence in the appeals process, but declined to speculate on whether or not Stack would back Bhalla or a write-in candidate should Garcia be off the ballot.
Bhalla and Stack have some history. Bhalla’s law firm received a $240,000 contract from Union City in 2007. In 2008, Bhalla’s firm donated $2,450 to Union City First, a pro-Stack political group. The firm received a contract from Union City worth $127,000 later that year. When asked if the firm may contribute again, Bhalla said, “I’ve always had a lot of respect for Mayor Stack; that remains unchanged. There are other partners at the firm, and I think that would be something we’d discuss together first.”
Garcia, for his part, echoed Stack’s confidence, saying that he hopes he will be allowed to run. Asked how he would do both jobs if elected, Garcia referred to himself as the “Energizer Bunny.”
For much more on this issue, please see the cover story in this weekend's Hoboken Reporter, in print or live at hudsonreporter.com starting Sunday.