With Christmas just around the corner, one can only speculate what each of the political people in Hudson County expects to get in their stocking – especially when so many people are at odds with so many other people.
If there is going to be any “Grinch Who Stole Christmas Award” this year, it has to go to state Senators Nicholas Sacco and Brian Stack, whose blood feud in North Hudson is making for a miserable Christmas for anyone who makes an honest living in either Union City or North Bergen government these days.
With the state attorney general sniffing around in one town and the FBI in the other, workers may have to be worried about hiring criminal attorneys rather than which streets need to be swept or how to make sure senior citizens are kept warm.
The latest travesty appears to be an advertisement taken out by a group called Hudson County Forward which takes Stack to task for not getting state aid for Jersey City when he has been careful to take care of Union City. Stack, of course, inherited a huge portion of Jersey City only this year after redistricting, so you have to wonder if the ad should also take Sacco and State Sen. Sandra Cunningham to task as well, since both of them represented Jersey City during the period the ad targeted. To say Stack favored Union City is to imply both other state senators didn’t do enough.
Can anyone really blame Stack, a Democrat, for seeing Republican Gov. Christopher Christie as Santa Claus? Since Christie has been particularly irritated by Sacco’s three government salaries (and future pension benefits) Christie may not want to give Sacco anything more in his stocking that he already has.
Cunningham is different. Christie has supported a number of her initiatives, especially when it comes to reentry rehabilitation programs for ex-offenders.
What people want for Christmas this year depends on where they are in Hudson County.
Assemblyman Sean Connors, who recently burned his bridges with Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy by withdrawing his endorsement, appears to want to replace Frank Schillari as county sheriff – a tall task, since Sacco backs Schillari, and Schillari is apparently a supporter of Councilman Steve Fulop, Healy’s opponent in the May 2013 mayoralty race. Having betrayed Healy – and apparently no friend of Stack’s – who is left to support Connor’s bid?
Healy, of course, may well steal Fulop’s Christmas if his proposed ticket for City Council comes true. Seen as an underdog for more than a year, Healy’s political capital appears to be on the rise – especially if he can get Councilwoman Viola Richardson to join his slate. Healy might win. Unfortunately for him, he will have to live with the results, since many of those who he appears to be seeking to run with are independent thinkers who might have their own say if they are elected next May.
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith – who also has the misfortune of serving as the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization – wants only political peace for Christmas, which may explain why he is running from this part to that part of Hudson County talking to this and that political faction, trying desperately to ward off the political war between Sacco and Stack that many believe is inevitable.
The rhetoric between the two camps has become so volatile that the two men and their organizations will never actually trust each other, no more than North and South Korea will. The best anyone can hope for is a truce, leaving each one to sulk in their own towns while the rest of the county gets on with business.
West New York Mayor Felix Roque may only want a get of out jail free card in his stocking – a very useful present in a county that is apt to see any public official part of a federal or state probe. But if he gets this wish, it will mean that many of his political enemies whole early mayoral election bid pretty much hinges on a Roque conviction, not a certain thing at all.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer already received her Christmas present with the huge support she got in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but her opponents, who seem to be against anything Zimmer is for, are not only going to wind up with coal in their stockings but egg on their faces when they try to unseat her next November. Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason, who recently caught up with Santa Claus at the Bayonne Tree Lighting (and possibly Mayor Smith) appears to want some county or state seat in her stocking. Unfortunately for most of the other anti-Zimmer people, they might have to take comfort in coal.
Santa has been very kind to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez with his reelection, but more importantly, he appears to have regained status as a behind the scenes power broker in Hudson County. This is very good news for Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and Rep. Albio Sires. Both of them were briefly on shaky ground with their support of Roque. But Menendez’s stronger influence may not bode well for Mayor Smith, who may still be stinging from his support of Nia Gill for the 10th District House of Representatives seat over Menendez’s pick and the eventual winner, Tom Payne Jr. Menendez has proven before to have a long memory when it comes to political slights, and this will likely prove true with Smith.
Other Santa wish list items: Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez to run with Stack for state assembly, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos to run for mayor of Hoboken, Attorney Robert Menendez Jr. as a possible future replacement for Stack in the state Senate.
One of the big questions during this Christmas season is whether County Executive Tom DeGise will step down early once the first green on the new county golf course opens up near Lincoln Park, and who will run in the special election to fill his seat if he does.
Several names have emerged as possible contenders, including Freeholder Bill O’Dea’s, which would be remarkably ironic since he’s been a steadfast critic of nearly ever county executive since being elected to the Freeholder board in 1998.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.