For candidates running for municipal office in the May election in Bayonne, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 23 was a kind of litmus test of popularity. In something resembling an old-fashioned talent show, supporters of this or that candidate looked to see who got cheered the most or booed (on the off chance this might happen), or with whom the candidates walked.
With three candidates running for mayor and a host for City Council, reading the parade tea leaves was more than a little precarious, especially when many of them were scattered along the parade route with one group or another.
Supporters of mayoral candidate James Davis appeared pleased at the reception he received, citing frequent cheers from the crowds at various points along the route. He was apparently walking with labor union representatives, while others on his ticket found other places to walk. Third Ward council hopeful Gary La Pelusa, for instance, walked with his civic association.
With no applause meter by which to gauge each candidate’s popularity, you have to take the word of supporters as to who won what. It amounts to a walking-debate.
Mayor Mark Smith walked with members of his City Council, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.
If Anthony Zanowic and his candidates were in the parade, they were not prominent. Zanowic, who is also running for mayor, is leading a more important procession – winning the ballot position lottery by obtaining the first slot. Three candidates on his six member ticket also found desirably visible positions on the May 13 ballot. A good position, according to election theory, can translate into a 1 or 2 percent better showing on Election Day. Whether this is enough to put the mayor election into a runoff is hard to predict. Unlike in Hoboken, Bayonne still operates under rules that require a winning candidate to get 50 percent plus one vote to be a winner. Thus, if the candidates split the vote three ways and no one has a clear majority, a runoff election is necessary. Doing away with the runoff election in Hoboken is seen as one of the key reasons Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer squeaked out a victory last November.
So for the next six weeks, expect campaign literature to be littered less with the typical political promises (which some people dismiss as lies) and more with the ballot position as each candidate seeks to make sure voters know where they can find them in the parade.
The other big litmus test for any successful candidate is how many lawn and house signs get posted in the months leading up to an election. Bayonne, like other places, also sports a less than noble tradition that rivals Mischief Night for its antics – tearing down an opponent’s signs. Some are more skillful at this overnight behavior than others. But in Bayonne such activity has become an art form. Putting up signs on vacant lots and the houses of absentee landlords never goes out of fashion, with all sides complaining that their opponents are guilty of this dirty tactic. Some unsuspecting residents even wake up in the morning to find a candidate’s sign on their home they didn’t authorize, very often a candidate they wouldn’t be caught dead voting for.
“Signs, don’t vote,” an old saying claims, but a sign for the wrong candidate on your lawn can put a politically ambitious person or supporter in a heap of trouble later.
This year, the Davis campaign claims that supporters of one of the other candidates became even more creative than usual, making sure to pluck all the pro-Davis signs off lawns near or around the route of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Some of the larger signs, however, proved just too sturdy to yank out of the ground, so whoever the vandals were, simply cut Davis’ face and name off the signs.
Behind the scenes, all sides claim the other sides are doing dastardly deeds such as dropping questionable flyers or allegedly intimidating property owners into putting up or taking down political signs.
There is a reason why the run up to elections is often called “the silly season.”
Hoboken/Jersey City freeholder race is unsettled
Nearly everybody is telling Freeholder Anthony Romano, who represents Jersey City Heights and Hoboken, to accept his political fate and bow out gracefully.
But he says he is running for reelection, even though he’s been told over and over again that he will not get the support of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) nor will his name be placed on the preferred line on the ballot with U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Rep. Albio Sires.
Democratic leadership in the county said the mayors of Hoboken and Jersey City will choose the candidate. Until this week, Phil Cohen of Hoboken was the choice of Hoboken Mayor Zimmer and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
But reports inside the Fulop camp as well as people inside the HCDO suggest that they may not be willing to support Cohen.
While Perry Belfiore says he is running for freeholder as well, the Fulop camp and some HCDO people may be looking to draft former Assemblyman Ruben Ramos to run.
This, of course, would not be at all acceptable to Zimmer, since Ramos ran against her for mayor last November and most likely would have beaten her in a runoff election had not Zimmer managed to do away with the runoff elections.
Ramos, a former Hoboken councilman, would get significant support from Jersey City Heights and downtown Jersey City, as well as from the anti-Zimmer forces in Hoboken.
Last week, we misnamed the freeholder challenger in North Bergen/Secaucus. Henry Marrero is challenging HCDO-backed Anthony Vainieri.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.