Although moved to November, the Hoboken mayoral election appears to be gathering momentum with Assemblyman Ruben Ramos and former schools trustee Frank Raia seeking City Council candidates for tickets that would try and challenge Mayor Dawn Zimmer and her slate.
More objective political observers believe Zimmer will be hard to beat in the mayoral race, but that control of the council might be wrestled away from her. Any mayoral challenge is also hindered by the fact that Zimmer managed to push through a referendum that eliminated runoff elections, so the candidate with even a minor lead in a three- or four-candidate race wins.
This strategy can be used against her, however, in council ward races, which are cheaper to run and can be flooded by a number of alternative candidates designed to steal votes from Zimmer’s people.
Troubles for Menendez?
One of the most powerful politicians in the state, and perhaps the most powerful in Hudson County, has reportedly been swept up into an FBI investigation of a West Palm Beach eye doctor and major Democratic contributor. Dr. Salomon Melgen, according to the Miami Herald, has been a contributor to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s campaigns. A conservative website cited unsourced allegations that the doctor provided Menendez with free trips to his Dominican Republic home where he also provided “underage Dominican Republic prostitutes,” according to the Herald. Thusfar, the allegations have not been confirmed by a law enforcement source.
The investigation, originally spurred by what the Herald called “the conservative media” just before Menendez’s reelection in November, comes just as Menendez was about to assume leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Menendez has denied the allegations and the investigation has been characterized by Washington Democrats as a right wing smear job. Menendez’s office told the Record the senator is fully cooperating with an investigation that led an Elmwood Park man to plead guilty on Tuesday to making an illegal campaign contribution to the senator.
The ramifications for Hudson County politics of Menendez sinking into a sex scandal would take an entire column to unravel. Only time will tell whether that will be necessary.
Stack asks for change of venue
In what some people are jokingly calling “The Tale of the Union City Strangler,” state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack has asked for a change of venue for his assault case – and with good reason.
The alleged assault took place in North Bergen, but any trial conducted there – even if perfectly legitimate – might give new meaning to the concept of a “kangaroo court.” In a county where Stack and state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco are locked in a political wrestling match of their own, for Stack to get a fair hearing, he might have to go to a Republican-dominated county where judges have been appointed by Republican Party bosses.
Whether Stack actually did what he is accused of doesn’t matter as much as the fact that his opponents are building a case against him, trying to discourage other political people from associating with him.
For Sacco’s side, the best scenario is to have Stack isolated in Union City with no power beyond its borders except perhaps to get reelected to the state Senate. Indeed, some effort is being made to reduce Stack’s influence in the Jersey City portion of his district, perhaps with the aim of grooming a challenger against him in the future.
“Stack’s worst enemy is Stack” one very prominent political observer said. “Nobody can beat him in New Jersey, but he can hurt himself.”
Roque inches towards trial
West New York Mayor Felix Roque, one of Stack’s few remaining allies, has legal issues of his own, having been indicted for allegedly hacking into the website of a political enemy. Some believe he could beat the rap; he seems to believe he can sell a judge and jury that this whole thing was a trap from the start, put together by his political enemies. If Roque goes to trial, the case will expose a lot of the inner workings of North Hudson’s political world, a ruthless environment where political enemies generally show no mercy, abiding by Machiavellian rules of power which dictate that you utterly ruin your enemy so he or she can never get revenge.
If Roque survives, he could become as entrenched in West New York as Stack is in Union City, and become one more thorn in the side of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, who have struggled to make peace in that part of the world.
The trial, if it occurs, will likely happen in late March, putting it in the middle of the primary season, distracting Roque’s ability to help Stack if Stack runs an alternative ticket.
Where will Cunningham go?
State Sen. Sandra Cunningham is expected to remain loyal to the Hudson County Democratic Organization in the event of a Democratic civil war. This means that Stack would need to find candidates in the 33rd District – which includes Bayonne and half of Jersey City – as well as the 32nd District, which includes North Bergen, West New York, Secaucus and portions of Hudson County, if he hopes to get his candidate for sheriff to win.
But with Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez choosing not to run with Stack for state assembly, Stack has enough trouble filling his own ticket in the 33rd District that includes Union City, Hoboken, and half of Jersey City. With almost no campaign money to draw on, Stack’s ability to go to political war is greatly diminished, even if he could get people like Raia or Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason to bankroll it. Those two and others would have their own agendas, and would enact their own demands in exchange.
Cunningham is expected, however, to support Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s reelection bid in Jersey City over Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop, even though a close associate Jerry Walker is also running for mayor.
Endorsements roll in for Buono
In what looks a lot like sending a lamb in for the slaughter, state Sen. Barbara Buono is getting a host of endorsements in her bid to try and unseat Republican Gov. Christopher Christie.
Sacco joins Healy and Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith in endorsing Buono as other potential state legislators back out of the race.
“Sen. Barbara Buono is a strong candidate and deserves credit for stepping forward and mounting a challenge to the governor,” Sacco said in a statement. “She has the kind of life experience and compelling personal story that will unite the Democratic Party base and also appeal to independent voters. I am proud to endorse Barbara and will work hard to produce a strong vote for her and the entire Democratic ticket in November.”
Buono is like the last person standing in a game of musical chairs, or worse, the only person not to take a step back when the Army drill sergeant asks for volunteers for a suicide mission.
As money pours into the state to help rebuild the shore regions, Christie’s popularity will grow as the man who helped save the state’s economy. Unions, whose workers will get sorely needed construction jobs, will secretly or openly support Christie, whereas before Hurricane Sandy, they might have backed Democratic candidates.
Buono must know this, as does the Democratic elite, who will reward her somewhere down the road after she gets swamped in November.