In a week that saw the opening of an off-track wagering facility in Bayonne, political oddsmakers say that State Sen. Sandra Cunningham will not likely run for Jersey City mayor next year, despite an upcoming rumored meeting between her and her close ally, State Sen. Ray Lesniak.
Some suggest that Jersey City Councilwoman Viola Richardson, who would likely get Cunningham’s support for a mayoral run, may not run for mayor either, but may seek reelection to her at-large council seat.
This, of course, leaves the continuing question of who actually is running. At this point, Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop has already announced, and it is reported that incumbent Mayor
Fulop to date seems to be putting together a ticket of no-name council candidates, which could pose a problem, because he needs his council candidates to help him garner votes in sections of the city where he might not quite have the name recognition as in his own ward.
But there are well-known council people, such as Richardson, Rolando R. Lavarro, Jr., and Nidia Lopez – who might give him significant clout and who made their reputations as independent voters, though they might not always support Fulop’s vision for the city – that he hasn’t approached. If Fulop fails to offer them slots on his ticket, they are likely to run as independents.
To counter this, Fulop appears to be negotiating with state Assemblyman Sean Connors as a possible Ward E council running mate. Connors may be feeling the squeeze from the Healy team and may fear a possible move by Jersey City Councilman Bill Gaughan, who is not seeking reelection to the council, but some claim wants Connors’s assembly seat.
Healy, meanwhile, appears to be building a ticket of well-known, perhaps worn out, reliable loyalists such as Councilman Peter Brennan, Councilman Michael Sottolano, and possibly a return of former Ward C Councilman Steve Lipski.
While Fulop has been seen as the up-and-coming candidate, some believe he is not strong enough to carry a ticket of unknown candidates, and will need to have a mix of knowns and unknowns to make it work. It is also possible that he could win as mayor but not have control of the City Council, although when push comes to shove, Healy looks stronger than he did six months ago, and this may attract serious money for his campaign.
Fulop, Lipski, Connors, and Mike Manzo made an appearance at the Mt. Carmel Feast on Broadway in Jersey City on July 15.
Pick one candidate, please!
Hoboken appears to still have a logjam as opponents of Mayor Dawn Zimmer jockey for position as the single challenger for next May.
Insiders say that the big-money people may not be willing to invest in an opposition ticket unless a single candidate is selected.
At this point, anybody and everybody is a possible candidate, even the most unlikely 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti. But the most serious contenders are Assemblyman Ruben Ramos and former School Board President Frank Raia.
Raia appears to have the support of Councilwoman Beth Mason, whom he befriended during Occhipinti’s victory over former Councilman Michael Lenz two years ago. This poses a problem for Councilman Michael Russo, whose support is being courted by Ramos and by his relative, Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, yet another possible mayoral candidate.
With Raia’s and Mason’s combined money, Raia may be the front runner, although some believe he could be a hard sell to the public since he doesn’t frequently make public appearances. Although his annual summer party was well-attended – including a visit by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez – Raia drags a lot of baggage coming into any race for mayor. His status as a developer will make him an easy target for Zimmer supporters.
Raia also did not exactly exude confidence among some when he kept calling Menendez “Congressman” instead of Senator.
But opponents appear to be divided over taking a poll to see which candidate might stack up best against Zimmer.
“She can be beaten,” one political observer said. “But everybody has to be behind one candidate, and that has to be right candidate.”
Raia might be able to play down his role as developer, but he will also have to make other changes.
“He has to shed some of his closest cronies,” this observer said.
Most agree that to win against Zimmer, a candidate will have to draw from both old and newcomers in Hoboken, and some are not confident Raia can do that.
But there has been very little serious discussion about a consensus candidate, and it is unlikely the anti-Zimmer forces will meet in earnest until after Labor Day.
Mayoral candidates in possible WNY recall?
West New York remains a question mark until after Labor Day as well, when some believe Mayor Dr. Felix Roque and his son will be indicted for allegedly hacking into the website of his political opponents. They have already been arrested, but not indicted.
An indictment could fuel a recall against Roque, but as in Hoboken, Roque would likely be opposed by several candidates dividing the opposition vote. Commissioner Count Wiley has already declared for mayor. Some believe behind-the-scenes power brokers who helped get Roque elected in the first place would likely back Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez instead.
If Roque steps town as a result of the indictment (an unlikely scenario) then the race would be wide open and could draw other candidates.
Most believe Roque will not step down unless he is convicted, and it is possible that he can be exonerated, which would make him even more powerful politically.