Party line candidate or independent?
Organizational differences highlight freeholder choices
by Joseph Passantino
Oct 01, 2014 | 7455 views | 0 0 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNETH KOPACZ
KENNETH KOPACZ
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MICHAEL ALONSO
MICHAEL ALONSO
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You probably couldn’t get two more different people running for your next county freeholder post than Kenneth Kopacz and Michael Alonso.

Kopacz is an educator, family man, running on the Hudson County Democratic Organization line. Alonso is a Realtor, single, and running as an independent.

The two are vying for the District 1 freeholder seat which will be vacated by Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico after her term ends Dec. 31. DiDomenico decided not to seek reelection because of personal reasons and increased work responsibilities.

District 1 includes all of Bayonne and Ward A, Districts 3 to 7, in Jersey City.

Kopacz’s and Alonso’s worlds converged following the May 13 Bayonne municipal elections.

Kopacz was the pick of then-Mayor Mark Smith to replace DiDomenico in the freeholder seat. Smith was forced into a runoff with then-candidate James Davis on June 10 and lost. In between Smith’s two campaigns, Kopacz handily beat back a Democratic primary challenge by Davis freeholder choice Rafael Augusto, 65 to 35 percent, on June 3. There were no Republican candidates in that party’s primary in June.

Alonso was a candidate for Bayonne Third Ward councilman in a crowded, five-man field. He came in third, far behind the top two vote getters. Following that election, he decided to run as an independent for the freeholder seat.

Like he did in the spring, Kopacz points to his career in education and long record of volunteerism in the city as reasons to support him.

He is the principal of Washington School, and comes from a family of educators, including his father (40 years in Newark) and wife, Kimberly (Jersey City School System). He has also been a coach for several sports.

Kopacz has held leadership posts in a number of city charitable organizations, including the Simpson-Baber Foundation for the Autistic, and Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation.

Alonso points to his background in real estate, which he thinks would serve him well in county government, as well as his crusade for an elected school board in the city, as major points to consider in his candidacy.

Alonso also gets name-recognition mojo from his late grandfather, a longtime and respected Bayonne physician known by generations.

If Kopacz gets elected, he says his priorities would include expanding the county’s open space, continued support of the Hudson County Schools of Technology, and safeguarding the environment.

If Alonso wins, he would seek to revamp the county welfare system, fight a realty transfer fee, and ensure that Kennedy Boulevard and Route 440, two main arteries through Bayonne, be maintained at a high standard. Both candidates say they would fight to bring more county dollars to their district, composed mainly of Bayonne, as well as push economic development.

Housing would be another priority for Kopacz.

“I’d work for housing expansion,” he said. “Let’s keep housing affordable and available for seniors.”

Alonso said austerity would be job one at any cost.

“I would never vote for a budget that would increase taxes,” he said. “If families have to tighten their budgets, so can the county.

Political support

The two men have diametrically opposed opinions on political group support for their candidacies.

“I’m proud to be running on the HCDO line,” Kopacz said. He will be running alongside U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and U.S. Representatives Albio Sires and Donald Payne.

But Alonso feels his independent status is what should make voters want to elect him freeholder.

“Bayonne wants an independent freeholder, not just someone who does whatever a political party wants,” he said.

Why vote for them

Why does each candidate believe citizens should vote for him on Nov. 4? Each was quick with his response.

“People know me; people know what I stand for,” said Kopacz. “People should vote for Ken Kopacz because he’s going to make the right decisions for the people of the First District.”

“People should vote for me because it’s time for a change,” Alonso said, “because I’m an independent. I’m one that puts people before politics.”

E-mail joepass@hudsonreporter.com.

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