Nobody knows whether Freeholder Bill O’Dea intends to run against Tom DeGise in 2015 for county executive – not even Bill O’Dea. Yet O’Dea is quietly building an alternative network of countywide support for the moment when he finally makes up his mind.
O’Dea’s face on public access TV in every corner of Hudson County – thanks to Pat Omelia – suggests that he is seeking to broaden his appeal to reach far beyond his west side Jersey City stronghold as possible.
In the south, O’Dea appears to be seeking support of Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, who is running for reelection in May 2014 against two already-declared candidates.
As a strong supporter of Steven Fulop’s successful mayoral campaign effort last spring, O’Dea seems to have a base he can count on in Jersey City. But some believe Fulop may not want to oppose the wishes of State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who is apparently supporting DeGise for reelection.
O’Dea is said to be courting Sacco’s long time political rival, State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack – which could help offset votes out of North Bergen against O’Dea.
Stack also faces reelection as mayor of Union City in 2014 – and this could be a test of the tenuous peace between Stack and Sacco. If Stack backs O’Dea, Sacco might decide to support opposition against Stack – not with the hope of unseating Stack, but rather to drain Stack’s limited campaign coffers.
Munoz is a gamble
The big gamble for O’Dea in North Hudson may be in seeking an alliance with Freeholder Jose Munoz, who for the moment appears to be playing the role of chief opposition to West New York Mayor Felix Roque.
As usual, few know what is actually going on politically in West New York, and so it is anybody’s guess how solid a foothold Roque has now that he has been cleared of federal charges that he conspired to hack into an anti-administration website that Munoz set up in 2012.
Some believe Munoz came out looking badly as a result of the trial, since Roque was found not guilty. But nobody can tell Munoz that. He has gone on the offensive against Roque, questioning everything from the $400,000 in fees the town attorney has received, to promotions made in the school district.
Munoz has even started a new website that continues to rail against Roque.
Although Commissioner FiorD’Aliza Frias is rumored to want to run against Munoz next July in the primary for freeholder, Roque’s inner circle appears to be grooming another candidate for that role.
Meanwhile, as of this week, Munoz appears to have enough votes on the freeholder board to become chairman in 2014, giving him a higher profile for his reelection, and possibly even setting the groundwork for a future mayoral bid against Roque in 2015.
A test of Roque’s political power in West New York will come in two upcoming Board of Education elections. The first, in January, will elect two new members to expand the school board to nine. A second election in April will elect three members as part of a newly approved referendum to switch from a board appointed by the mayor to one that is elected.
The strong voter support for the referendum last November is seen by some as a weakness in Roque’s support. It certainly forces Roque into two elections he did not need at a time when he is trying to polish his political image.
The existing Board of Education resisted holding two elections, partly because of the cost involved, but eventually gave in at a special meeting held on the day after Thanksgiving.
A day after that, Board President Adriane Sires resigned, raising even more furor among critics – alluding to all kinds of doom and gloom for the Roque regime. Sires, the wife of Rep. Albio Sires, said she resigned to spend more time with her newborn grandson in California. Few political hacks believe her, preferring to spin stories about pending state investigations and other self-serving tripe.
The most realistic assessment of the resignation suggests that Albio Sires – who faces reelection of his own next year – did not want his wife embroiled in a messy school board election and its aftermath.
Whatever the reason, the resignation creates one additional problem for Roque’s control of the board. He will need to find four candidates in April instead of three, and with six of nine seats contested, opponents have an even better chance of gaining control of the patronage-rich school district.
Even if Roque retains control of the board, he isn’t likely to win all the seats, leaving the Board of Education to become another venue for political turmoil similar to what the commissioner meetings have been over the last two years.
Next year elections already gearing up
Next year will likely see challenges on several freeholder seats. Even if O’Dea does plan to run for county executive in 2015, he will need to get reelected as freeholder first. His seat is most likely safe, but along with a challenge against Munoz in West New York, a challenge is expected to be waged against Bayonne Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico.
Bayonne’s municipal election will likely be a hot one, with three candidates already declared for mayor – two of whom, Mayor Smith and Police Captain James Davis, are seen as bitter rivals. Smith’s financial coffers are impressive. Davis will have to raise a lot of money and also tap into all of the anti-Smith groups in order to overcome Smith’s usually strong get-out-the-vote effort.
Davis has already held a small meet and greet in downtown Bayonne which drew about 70 people, including former Councilman Gary LaPelusa, who is expected to run as Davis’ 3rd Ward candidate, and former Hudson County Sheriff Juan Perez, who is believed to be running on the ticket for an at-large council seat. A larger fundraiser is expected to be held this week, which is expected to show Davis’s full support.
Leonard Kantor, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor twice, has declared this week that he will run for the 1st Ward council seat independent of any ticket.
Anthony Zanowic, the other declared candidate for mayor, apparently has two council candidates already: Washington Flores in 3rd Ward and Daniel Herrera in the 1st.
Smith’s ticket is reportedly going to be the existing council, but there are rumblings that some of those currently serving do not want to run.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.