“You can get physical,” said debate host Pat O’Meila at a Jersey City mayoral debate that included two of the four contenders in the 2013 municipal election.
Although Jerry Walker was invited to join the debate, illness kept him away. Abdul Malik did not receive an invitation since one of the criteria for inclusion was that a candidate have ticket of council candidates, leaving Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Councilman Steve Fulop to battle it out.
Malik attempted to get a restraining order to stop the debate, which drew the attention of New York City media, but the court declined to intervene.
Those who decided to watch the debate – which was being taped to air of local TV – got their money’s worth (not that anyone actually thought to charge admission) as Healy and Fulop clashed over crime, taxes, development, and perceived corruption.
Moderated by O’Meila, along with columnists from The Hudson Reporter and The Jersey Journal, the debate grew heated at times as each candidate struggled to reshape each issue to his own advantage. For Fulop, who served on the City Council for seven years, it was a particularly difficult balancing act to show the Healy administration as a failure while trying not to appear as an obstructionist.
The two men disagreed on nearly every issue, from how to handle illegal apartments to the status of crime in Jersey City. Healy painted a rosier picture of his administration’s efforts on development, attracting business and improving the quality of life, while Fulop portrayed Healy’s record of stagnant at best.
The Hudson Reporter will be airing its own online debate shortly, which is expected to feature all four mayoral candidates.
Gonnelli gets a pass in primary challenges
With the filing of petitions for the local primaries, the biggest winner may well have been Secaucus Mayor Mike Gonnelli, who has been looking over his shoulder since being elected mayor in 2009. But to his relief, neither Democrat nor Republican has filed to run for mayor. This does not yet mean that he is free and clear because it is possible that someone could file as an independent on primary day in June. But his biggest fear was from the former Democratic organization that has dominated Secaucus politics since the early 1980s and came unraveled after former Mayor Dennis Elwell was forced to resign after being charged and later convicted in a federal sting operation.
The other big question involved a possible challenge against Democratic Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari. Some believed state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack would put up a candidate – the short list included Jimmy Carroll of Jersey City and current West New York Parking Authority Chairman Richard Rivera. The challenge for the seat will come out of West New York, but it will be Republican candidate Fernando Virlar Jr. next November.
Republicans battle for Assembly nod in 31st District
The rumored Democratic primary battle in the 31st legislative district that includes all of Bayonne and half of Jersey City did not materialize, leaving incumbent Democratic State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, and her two incumbent assembly running mates, Charles Mainor and Jason O’Donnell, unopposed in the primary. The Hudson County Republican Party has put up former Bayonne Councilwoman Maria Karcewski for Senate. But they will see a Republican primary battle for Assembly with Gerald Pizzillo and Juanita Lopez backed for Assembly seats by the Hudson County Republican Party, while Michael J. Alonso and Tony Zanowic are running for the Assembly on a Hudson County Republican Club ticket.
Sacco faces primary challenge in 32nd District
State Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco faces a Democratic primary challenge in the 32nd District, but largely because his district is split between Hudson County and Bergen County. While he is being supported by the Hudson County Democratic Organization, his opponent Francisco E. Torres out of Guttenberg is running with the Bergen Democratic Committee. The Hudson County Republican Party is supporting Paul Castelli of Kearny for that seat.
The Hudson County portion of this district includes North Bergen, Guttenberg, Secaucus, West New York, and all of Western Hudson County including Kearny.
Democratic incumbent Assembly members Vincent Prieto of Secaucus and Angelica Jimenez of West New York are running with the support of Bergen Democratic Committee of Bergen and the Hudson County Democratic Organizations. They are being opposed by Mayra Doinguez of North Bergen and Ines P. Serna of West New York, who are running on a ticket supported by the Bergen Democrats for the People and the Hudson Democrats for the People.
Maria Malavasi-Quartello, of West New York, and Lee Marie Gomez, of West New York, are running on the ticket backed by the Hudson County Republican Party.
With so many candidates in the race from West New York, you have to wonder which candidates Mayor Felix Roque supports.
“I think Angelica [Jimenez] is doing a good job,” he said. Though he sometimes disagrees with her, he said he admires her toughness.
All’s not completely quiet in the 33rd District
With a truce called in North Hudson, State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack finds himself with no opposition in the Democratic primary the 33rd District. But with two vacant Assembly positions, this will be something of a battleground in June and perhaps in November, with Republicans seeking to get one or both of those seats.
This district includes Union City, Hoboken, Weehawken and half of Jersey City.
Stack’s pick for Assembly candidates are Raj Mukherji, deputy mayor of Jersey City, and Carmello Garcia, executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority.
They are being opposed by a Democratic ticket that included Anthony Mills of Jersey City and John Hilt IV of Union City.
Also running in the primary for an Assembly seat is Hoboken Councilman Ravinder Bhalla, and Peter Basso of Jersey City. But Bhalla said he may not run as a Democrat.
Bhalla ran in the primary two years ago for the same seat, and appears to have strong support from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Jude Anthony Tiscornia, of Jersey City, and Armando Hernandez, of Union City are running with the support of the Hudson County Republican Party.
For state Senate, Stack has the back of the Hudson County Democratic Organization and will face Republican challenger James Sanford of Hoboken in November.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.