Regardless of Gov. Christopher Christie’s statements earlier this summer that an indicted public official should step down, Hudson County has some prominent examples of people who refused. Most notable were Guttenberg Mayor Nicholas Cicco and Councilman Vinny Tabbacino from the early 1990s, both of whom stayed in office until the day of their sentencing. Cicco still maintains his innocence (and there is some evidence to support his claims). This may be a hopeful sign for West New York Mayor Felix Roque, who, along with his son, was indicted in August for allegedly hacking into the website of political enemies. Like Cicco, Roque may so firmly believe in his own innocence that to resign would be to admit to something he truly believes he did not do.
Roque got a bit of reprieve when his attorney was granted more time to review the evidence against him. The trial itself will become something of a side show for political junkies who are lost in glare of a presidential election year and crave something local to keep them entertained. But they might have to wait a little.
Roque and his son have pleaded not guilty to the charges, but this has not stopped opponents from pondering a recall election. Commissioner Count Wiley has already indicated his intention to move ahead with a recall shortly, and he’s not alone.
West New York has become a hotbed of political intrigue as Commissioners Caridad Rodriguez and Fior d’Aliza Frias, both possible mayoral replacements for Roque if he steps down, have complained about former West New York employee and Wiley supporter David Rivera, who attempted to pass out pro-Wiley literature in a public park in July – which resulted in a shoving match. Rivera was fired two days later. You have to wonder if there is already jockeying for position in anticipation of an upcoming special election.
North Hudson dispute could lead to Democratic civil war
Meanwhile, an already smoldering political fire between State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack seemed to get some fuel over Union City’s failing to pay its share of the North Hudson Regional Fire department bill. North Bergen went so far as to hire a collection firm to make Union City pay up – and this could be the thing that finally pushes Stack into breaking with the Hudson County Democratic Organization and run his own Democratic slate in next June’s primary, something that many anti-HCDO people have been urging him to do for years. The question is, does Stack have the funding for an all-out political war?
Council presidency term halved
The political warfare over council presidency in Jersey City that started last January with the “Dump Council President Peter Brennan” movement settled into a more practical decision by the City Council to change the term for council president from four years to two years. Mayor Jerramiah Healy vetoed the move in January when it was clear that the majority of the council had simply targeted Brennan, but the mayor made no move to derail the move this month when the council again moved to change the law in order to better accommodate significant changes on the council, giving new council members a chance to select their own presidency rather than wait the full four years until after the next election.
Will Gonnelli keep Bueckner?
Some Secaucus political opponents of Mayor Michael Gonnelli were claiming recently that 2nd Ward Councilman John Bueckner may not get Gonnelli’s nod in the November 2013 municipal election, paving the way for a possible primary fight next fall. Bueckner, who has served on the Town Council as a political independent since the heyday of the Secaucus Independent Alliance in the early 1990s, might be asked to step aside to make way for Guy Pascarello. Wishful thinkers believe that some from Gonnelli’s party, Take Back Secaucus, might jump back into the Democratic Party and force primary battles in several council races. Even though Gonnelli and his party are currently independent, Secaucus, unlike many other Hudson County towns, hold partisan elections in November.
Gonnelli said Wednesday night that the rumors are not true, and he has no plans to dump Bueckner.
Step up or shut up time
Labor Day in Hoboken will mark the beginning of silly season, and a time when candidates who wish to run for mayor next spring will have to decide if they are running, and start building a consensus. While it is most likely that incumbent Mayor Dawn Zimmer will likely run for reelection, it is less certain who will oppose her. Some opponents may be praying for the referendum to shift the election until next November, if only to give them more time to make up their minds. But it is unlikely that time will make any difference since the once-united anti-Zimmer forces have become “every man or woman for his or own self,” and less about a philosophical difference. In the end, they will still have Zimmer to contend with.
Hudson Republicans in Tampa
Joining Gov. Christie at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week are several Hudson County Republicans, including Republican County Chairman Jose Arango. This is significant for local Republicans who have seen their fortunes climbing since Christie’s election and could play a significant role in this year’s U.S. Senate race in which Republicans hope to defeat Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez. They won’t beat Menendez in Hudson County, where Menendez served as Union City mayor, assemblyman, state senator, and congressman for decades, but Republicans hope they can reduce the margin of victory so that Menendez cannot make up for pro-Republican votes elsewhere in the state. Hudson Republicans at the National Convention gives them additional recognition and may incite them to work harder in the next few months.