Political shenanigans never cease.
In what looks to be the largest reconfiguring of the Hudson County Board of Freeholders in more than two decades, freeholders Jeff Dublin, Anthony Romano, Doreen DiDomenico, Jose Munoz, and Thomas Liggio are being put out to pasture by the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) in favor of a new crop of candidates more acceptable to party leaders.
This is nothing personal, according to political insiders, merely the confluence of other factors, from long-time loyalists waiting their turn for a seat at the table, to long-waged political wars in North Hudson. In Jersey City, Hoboken, and Bayonne, the restructuring of the board is the first move in a high-powered chess game that will allow Mayor Steven Fulop to put his long-time ally, Freeholder Bill O’Dea in the county executive’s chair, and may well allow Fulop to move from mayor of Jersey City to become governor of New Jersey. Those who do not benefit the various agendas in play are being cast aside for those who will, insiders say.
Musical freeholder chairs
To be fair, DiDomenico and Liggio have technically decided to retire, although in both cases, rumors of their being replaced have circulated for years. Anthony Vainieri, aide to State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, was boasting about replacing Liggio last summer.
DiDomenico has been rumored to be the target of a primary challenge ever since Fulop was elected mayor of Jersey City last May. Never a favorite of the administration of Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, she apparently retired in order to avoid a primary fight she could not win.
Smith has endorsed Ken Kopacz, a close associate of Smith’s 3rd Ward councilman, Ray Greaves.
But Kopacz will be challenged, said insiders from the camp of James Davis, who is running against Smith for mayor in the May municipal election.
DiDominico’s name was not going to appear on the ballot on a line supported by the HCDO – nor would Liggio’s, Dublin’s, Romano’s or Munoz’s. In a county so caught up with voting the Democratic line, candidates off the line are at a significant disadvantage.
Ideally, candidates get the line after the Democratic committee members in their voting districts approve them. But in Hudson County freeholder districts, the mayor of each town in the district makes the choice. This is true even if a mayor is considered a reform mayor such as Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer or Fulop. If the mayor says you’re off the line, you’re off the line.
Munoz has incurred the worst wrath since he has at least two of the three mayors in his district against him, as well as the HCDO chairman Assemblyman Vincent Prieto. Munoz, who has built a strong popular base in West New York, hopes he can overcome the vote against him coming out of Weehawken and Guttenberg. He is being opposed by Caridad Rodriguez – who not only has the blessing of Sacco, but of Rep. Albio Sires, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, and Prieto.
Romano has an equally daunting task. He has both Zimmer and Fulop against him in a district that includes all of Hoboken and portions of Jersey City. While Romano could likely beat Zimmer-backed Phil Cohen normally, many of the political district leaders in Jersey City fear the wrath of Fulop by openly supporting Romano. This may force Romano to retire as well, allowing Cohen to gain the freeholder seat uncontested.
The same is not true for Vainieri, who will have to face off against Police Sgt. Henry Marrera, who threw his hat into the freeholder ring in early March.
Word is that Dublin, who is being challenged by Fulop-backed Gerard Balmir Jr., is reportedly going to go down with the ship and fight the political machine that had once helped him get his seat in the first place.
Bayonne election heats up
One of the big questions of the moment in Bayonne is whether or not Davis and Anthony Zanowic would be allowed to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade held on Sunday, March 23. This clearly will be a settled issue by the time Bayonne residents read this column. But the issue shows just how significant each side in the campaign views public exposure. Since groups are required to pay a registration fee to march, Davis and his ticket will likely walk behind the Gary LaPelusa Civic Association banner, since LaPelusa is also the 3rd Ward candidate on that ticket.
Even debates have become debatable. While all three candidates have consented to take part in video debate hosted by the Hudson Reporter and to be aired on line, other debates are currently in dispute. The Smith campaign does not wish to have a debate held at the Knights of Columbus primarily because some people – partaking of the open bar – got rowdy during the last debate there. The Smith people would like the debate to be held at the high school auditorium. But the Davis campaign – which gets a lot of support from teachers upset by the lack of a contract – may be against having a public debate at the high school.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.