In what is turning out to be one of the more brilliant political chess gambits, Hoboken City Councilman Ravi Bhalla has outfoxed some key political players in his bid to win the Democratic line for state Assembly in the 33rd District.
Legal maneuvering (which Bhalla denies any connection to) that challenges Carmelo Garcia’s ability to run may have put Bhalla in a position to win the primary seat in June. Garcia had support from ticket-mate Union City and State Senator Brian Stack, and the Hudson County Democratic Organization. But he may not get to run.
Garcia, who gets federal money as part of his salary on the Hoboken Housing Authority, would have been barred immediately by the federal Hatch Act from seeking state elected office if the U.S. Congress hadn’t changed the act earlier this year to make it easier for people like him to serve. While the legal eagles behind Garcia and Stack claim they checked the law before making Garcia a candidate, they apparently neglected to research state law, which mirrors the original Hatch Act, and thus Garcia – unless he wins an appeal or resigns his Housing Authority job – is banned from running.
Bhalla, in a move that any master chess player would envy, filed his challenge against Garcia the day after the deadline that would allow the HCDO to name a replacement, thus forcing the HCDO to seek relief from the courts with the hope they will still get their choice. If not, then the slot becomes open to those candidates already filed – including Bhalla. Should Bhalla win the Democratic primary in June, he is likely to win the General Election in November. Bhalla is seen as the front runner in the primary and announced this week that he had the support of longtime ally Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
If Stack and the HCDO want to keep Bhalla from being elected in November they have several options.
Write-in elections are hugely difficult, so it would behoove Stack to back an independent in the November race. This independent with Stack’s support would likely win the seat even with Bhalla running on the Democratic line. Stack could even throw his support behind one of the two Republican candidates. This would also greatly improve Stack’s already very tight connection with Republican Gov. Christopher Christie, for whom an assembly victory by Republicans in the heart of Democratic Hudson County would be a significant accomplishment.
Is Jersey City too close to call?
Nobody really knows who will win the May Jersey City mayoral election, but most believe it will go into a runoff election, partly because Jerry Walker could take as much as 10 percent of the overall vote.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy has been getting stronger, although his principal opponent, Councilman Steven Fulop, claims Healy’s need to muddy the race shows desperation.
But the numbers seem not to add up for Fulop, especially if it goes into a runoff election. Ward A with Charles Epps as Healy’s council candidate will go most likely go to Healy. With Freeholder Bill O’Dea dragging out his vote in Ward B, Fulop will likely do well there.
The same can’t be said for Ward C, which will likely wind up in a runoff. Councilwoman Nidia Lopez may seem strong, but insiders say she may not be strong enough, and since Fulop once tried to keep her from being seated at a councilperson, her supporters may not vote for him.
Fulop has a similar problem in Ward D where Sean Connors is running on his ticket, but many remember the bad blood between Connors and Fulop in the past, and since that is Healy’s home ward, Connors may win, but so might Healy.
Most expect Fulop to carry his own home ward, E, but with Dan Levin as Healy’s candidate there, it won’t be as easy as it might have been and not by the margins Fulop needs to offset Healy votes elsewhere in the city.
While Fulop has a strong candidate in Ward F with Diane Coleman, he can’t rely on winning a majority of the votes there because at-large Councilwoman Viola Richardson will draw a lot of votes there for Healy, regardless of who wins Ward F.
If there is a runoff, Fulop may actually have bigger problems because he won’t have council candidates to draw votes for him. Win or lose, Lopez and Connors will have little incentive to help Fulop.
All this speculation could be completely wrong, and Fulop’s machine might roll over Healy in the first round, but don’t bet your house on it.
West New York is still a drama
Michael Indri’s retirement as West New York Police Director may not be a sign of a sinking ship, but it certainly doesn’t do a lot for morale in a government besieged by predictions that Mayor Felix Roque won’t have much more time in office.
His political enemies are rubbing their hands in anticipation of getting the keys to City Hall, if not in a special election if Roque steps down as mayor, then in a recall election in September that seems to be building steam.
The most recent additional charge against Roque may not be big news or even pose much more of a legal challenge for him, but it is one more burden day-to-day workers have to endure in what has become an ongoing saga of political intrigue. Most believe that the conspiracy charge added to charges that Roque had been allegedly involved in hacking the website of a political enemy is an effort squeeze him into taking a plea deal.
“Roque is stubborn,” one of his political enemies said in begrudging admiration. “But when this all breaks, it will happen quickly, and when he’s gone, heads will roll.”
Unlike Jersey City where an election is looming, West New York’s political scene is a lot like fantasy baseball, those seeking to remove Roque fantasizing for the moment when the game becomes real. But there is real anger rising in a city where this administration seems to have pitted one group against another, such as parking authority officers enraging police because they’ve issued parking tickets to cops, and the hiring of questionably qualified people in minor municipal positions at what critics claim are unreasonably high salaries.