"You have two factions of the Old Guard in a feud, who just handed over the Hoboken Democratic Organization to Michael Lenz."
In what many see as the most significant political coup since back in 2001 - when Councilman Dave Roberts and a group of reformers overthrew the administration of Mayor Anthony Russo - Lenz, through a series of negotiations, has successfully allowed a faction of the reform movement in Hoboken to take over the Hoboken Democratic Organization.
The reorganization last week named Jeff Barnes as the new chairman - handpicked by outgoing chairman Maurice Fitzgibbons.
Despite the deal, Barnes is considered a remarkably good choice by most local political people.
In exchange, Fitzgibbons allowed Lenz and the reform movement to name the remaining committee officers, including Vice Chair: Ann Graham, 1st Vice Chair: Phil Cohen, Treasurer: Ernie Marmer, Secretary: Maritza Emmanuelli, and Sgt. at Arms: Brian Assadourian.
This is significant because in the past, the Hoboken Democratic Organization has donated money to candidates for mayor and other local races.
However, last week, Ann Graham said that the organization will no longer back municipal candidates, instead focusing on larger, partisan races.
Graham and others in the reform faction say they intend to change the organization's bi-laws to prevent funds from behind used in non-partisan elections such as mayor and city council races.
By filtering the money through the Democratic organization, the reformers could have avoided the paper trail that connects them to powerful special interests.
Fitzgibbons may have handed the reformers an even more powerful tool on the government side in possibly agreeing to champion reformers' issues with his close ally, Councilman Peter Cammarano. This could mean that reformers will need only one more vote to get a 5-4 voting majority on some issues on the nine-member City Council.
This could give Cammarano a huge edge if he decides to run for mayor in 2009, since he will be the deciding vote on many critical issues.
Cammarano, who is an attorney, initially was elected with the Roberts team as a fresh young face, but lost the faith of some reformers last year when he backed then-Councilman Chris Campos in Campos' heated race against new Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer.
Also last week, Hoboken-based reformer Carol Marsh was named one of the vice chairs of the longtime Hudson County Democratic Organization. This becomes a snub to Hoboken Mayor Roberts, suggesting that the HCDO may support Marsh for mayor over Roberts in 2009.
As for the recent Lenz-Fitzgibbons union regarding the local Democratic organization, it was part of a move to beat back a challenge by Frank Raia and Hoboken Councilman Michael Russo, who were trying to take control of the party.
Several sources said they would have gone with the Russo-Raia faction, except that Russo tried to get his mother, Michele, named to the committee leadership.
"That was the deal-breaker," one source said. "For years, Michael has convinced us that he was not his father [Anthony Russo, who went to jail for corruption], but here he goes and tries to bring back the same organization his father had."
Secaucus race may start early
The legal ruling against the town of Secaucus over a gay-bashing incident in 2004 may have huge political implications.
In 2004, firefighters from one of the wilder firehouses allegedly went out of control and terrified a gay couple living next to the firehouse. The couple moved out of town, and soon found blood smeared on the doorstep of their new apartment.
This particular firehouse has a long reputation for questionable deeds, especially in regards to drinking and wild parties. When the town cracked down on some of these habits, the firefighters took refuge by supporting the council election efforts of Michael Gonnelli.
This could work against Gonnelli in his future plans to run for mayor.
Mayor Dennis Elwell has repeatedly blamed Gonnelli for not doing enough to stop a proposed industrial bakery proposed near a residential section. Gonnelli has said he opposed it just like the mayor has.
Although the election for mayor of Secaucus isn't until 2009, we may see the campaign start by the end of this summer.
Sean Connors is confident
Sean Connors said his recent run for freeholder showed that he may have strength enough to beat incumbent Councilman Bill Gaughan in Jersey City Heights in a council race next year.
"The Heights came out very strong for me once again. We won 10 out of 14 districts and accumulated 675 votes," he said. "That total is actually ahead off last year's total of 1,155 votes in all 29 districts. I think this sets me up into a good position for next year's municipal elections if I consider running."
Jersey City is gearing up for mayor and council elections next spring.
While reports suggest that former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler may run, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise - a former Schundler ally - said he won't back him.
"I'm supporting Jerramiah Healy for mayor," DeGise said.
Chiappone blasts county for involvement in Bayonne mayor's race
State Assemblyman and Bayonne Councilman Anthony Chiappone blasted county Democrats for becoming involved in the Bayonne municipal elections.
"They said they were going to stay out, but they were at the announcement for Mark Smith," Chiappone said.
Police Director Smith has declared his intention to run for mayor against two other currently declared candidates. Chiappone is supporting retired Municipal Judge Patrick Conaghan.
Last month, Conaghan said he had talked to Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy (Chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization) and got a promise that the HCDO would play no role in the Bayonne municipal race in November.
But County Executive DeGise, his chief of staff, Gaughan, as well as other county level dignitaries were on hand at the Smith announcement.
Chiappone also dispelled reports that Conaghan may drop out of the race later.
A rumor is circulating that Smith and Conaghan have come to an agreement to announce early in order to discourage other potential candidates from running. In exchange, Conaghan would drop out just after the September filing, leaving the field open for Smith.
"This won't happen," Chiappone said. "But if for some reason Conaghan won't run, I will. But I believe Judge Conaghan will be the next mayor of Bayonne."
Two weeks ago, this column mistakenly describe Vasilios G. Scullous of Guttenberg as being supported in past elections by West New York Mayor Sal Vega when in fact, Scullous ran against Vega for freeholder in 2005 as a Republican and has run in several Town Council races since 2003.