Money and mayors
Final campaign finance reports show big spending in Hoboken politics
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Dec 15, 2013 | 3890 views | 0 0 comments | 101 101 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BIG SPENDERS – Dawn Zimmer, Tim Occhipinti and Ruben Ramos all spent well over $100,000 on last month’s mayoral election.
BIG SPENDERS – Dawn Zimmer, Tim Occhipinti and Ruben Ramos all spent well over $100,000 on last month’s mayoral election.

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) released the final campaign finance reports from the mayoral election last week, revealing that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s victorious reelection campaign spent slightly less than either of her opponents.

The Friends of Dawn Zimmer committee spent $126,674 on her campaign, while her challengers, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos and 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti, spent $149,234 and $159,381 respectively.

Zimmer probably did not need to spend as much as she would have if she was fending off just one opponent. Zimmer won re-election with 47 percent of the citywide vote. Ramos was in second place and Occhipinti came in far behind.

Zimmer’s council slate of Ravi Bhalla, David Mello, and Jim Doyle also won.

Political observers said that once Occhipinti entered the race a month prior to Election Day, Zimmer could more or less relax while her two opponents split the anti-Zimmer vote.
“I put that money up myself so I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone else.” – Frank Raia
Zimmer’s spending report notes that her campaign has about $15,000 in unspent funds left. Ramos, who acknowledged that his Vision for Hoboken slate was strapped for cash in the campaign’s final days, has just over $1,000 left over. Occhipinti’s One Hoboken team, funded largely through a $122,000 cash donation from council-at-large candidate Frank Raia, appears to still have almost $27,000 to put toward future endeavors.

Where’d it all come from?

The collective $435,288 spent on the November election is unlikely to break records in this heated political town. But it does show how divided the Hoboken political scene has become.

Raia, who more or less bankrolled his slate’s campaign, said he hadn’t yet reviewed all of the reports, but said he thought the total amount spent didn’t speak highly of the any of candidates’ independence.

“If that’s the type of money that was spent, it’s not money that was coming from regular Hoboken people, and I don’t think it bodes well for politics in this town because it means they owe somebody,” he said. “No one runs the type of campaigns [that both of my opponents did] without help.”

The reports from the Zimmer and Ramos campaigns somewhat substantiated Raia’s claims – Zimmer received contributions from a number of labor unions and Ramos faced criticism throughout the campaign for taking contributions from outside political forces. But Zimmer and Ramos collectively raised about $70,000 from individual donations of $300 or less, as opposed to One Hoboken’s $4,500.

Asked about his $122,000 donation to Occhipinti’s campaign, Raia said that he thought it was necessary to compete with Zimmer and Ramos, and that if he and Occhipinti had been victorious, it would have allowed them to act with more integrity than if they had taken large contributions.

“If I’d gotten elected I would have been able to do what I wanted to do, I wouldn’t owe anybody,” said Raia, who is a real estate builder in town. “I put that money up myself so I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone else.”

Raia also weighed in on rumors that his slate was just an attempt to hurt the candidacy of Ramos, his longtime political adversary.

Immediately following the election, Ramos claimed he would have won if Occhipinti and Raia hadn’t entered the race a month before Election Day. Ramos also claimed that the campaign was a sham, railing against the “political egos” of his opponents.

Raia disagreed with Ramos’ assessment of his campaign. “Sour grapes go a long way,” he said.

He added, “He could say what he wants say, I ran because I thought I was the best man for the job. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

As for another rumor that has surrounded Raia since the election – that he interfered with Ramos’ candidacy in the election so Zimmer would support his development agenda – Raia said he has no projects in the pipeline.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at

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