“Hudson County will lead the way in reelecting President Obama, Senator Bob Menendez, reelecting Congress Albio Sires and Bill Pascrell, and electing Donald Payne Jr.,” said Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith after being reelected as chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (the longstanding Democratic group in Hudson County) on June 12. “Our candidates will be the front-line of defense against the Tea Party Republicans.”
Although rumored to be on his way out, Smith was unanimously reappointed as the Hudson County Democratic chairman despite divisions among Democrats.
Smith, who has been HCDO chairman for the last two years, was reportedly a compromise candidate between a still-divided local Democratic party, in which State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco was rumored to be supporting Assemblyman Vincent Prieto for the slot.
To many people’s surprise, state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, who has not been at a HCDO reorganization meeting since 2006, made an appearance in support of Smith, promising interesting things for the future, including HCDO support for Stack’s reelection next year. Stack was not alone. Most of the mayors, who make the real decisions that determine the leadership position, backed Smith.
But it was quite a show. The vote took place at Henry Harris School in Bayonne, mostly because elementary school graduations had denied the HCDO venues elsewhere in the county. Stack shipped in two busloads of committee people, as did Sacco.
County Executive Tom DeGise served as interim chair in order to oversee the nominations. Jersey City Freeholder Jeff Dublin nominated Smith in a meeting that took less than 15 minutes from beginning to end.
“A lot of people talked about Prieto before the vote,” one committee person said. “But he was never nominated.”
“Hudson County will send a clear message to Washington starting tomorrow: our families are willing to work – they need jobs and an economy that is moving in the right direction; our families deserve access to quality health care,” Smith said in a statement after the vote, throwing down a gauntlet against the GOP challengers. “Our children are entitled to an education that will enable them to go as far as their hard work will allow, and we will not stand by while ultraconservative Republicans try to turn back the clock on the women of our state and country.”
Smith, the mayor of Bayonne, thanked Hudson County Committee members and Democratic leaders throughout the county for their continuing support as he was reelected to his third term as county Democratic chairman.
“I’m heartened by the confidence they’ve shown in me and I’m rolling up my sleeves to do the work that’s needed to continue rebuilding our party and win this year,” Smith said.
In the only Hudson County local election, County Clerk Barbara Netchert is running unopposed.
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner was among those who attended the meeting, as did Hoboken Democratic Chairman Jamie Cryan. A surprise to some perhaps was the presence of former West New York Mayor Sal Vega, who lost to Dr. Felix Roque two years ago. Vega’s infrastructure remains intact (see Gennarose Pope’s story on this subject in the West New York Reporter this Sunday, on-line in the West New York section of www.hudsonreporter.com). Vega may think he can make a comeback.
Smith’s leadership came under fire because of losses of HCDO-backed candidates in two Jersey City school board elections, as well as the most recent decision to support state Senator Nia Gill in the recent primary to run for the seat vacated by the death of Rep. Donald Payne Sr. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, as well as numerous North Hudson political people, supported Payne’s son, Donald Payne, Jr. who eventually won the Democratic nomination on June 6.
Some actually began to question the strength of the HCDO, claiming it was broke and ineffective. But the recent move to keep control of the West New York Democratic Committee won some accolades for Smith and dispelled some of the rumors of weakness.
Roque made a move to take control of both the Democratic and Republican committees by backing certain candidates during the June 6 primaries, and failed to win either.
In his bid for Democratic Committee, his ticket managed to collect on 14 of the 68 seats, while those loyal to the HCDO won about 44. At the reorganization meeting on June 11, only 11 of Roque’s committee people showed up, and in a secret ballot, one of these people apparently voted with the HCDO – which is bound to have Roque looking over his shoulder to determine which one of his loyal following is a traitor.
This type of politics is apparently what led Roque to his current legal troubles, in which he and his son sought to root out political enemies by allegedly hacking into a recall Roque website.
Some Hoboken Democrats said they disagreed with Democratic Chairman Cryan’s assessment of the redistricting done in Hoboken’s 4th Ward, saying that Democratic input was not considered. Cryan said last week that redistricting had a negative impact in some areas that tended to vote against the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer. But others associated with Cryan said all views were taken into consideration.
“If Jamie can’t find his polling place, I’ll walk him to it,” one official said.
Meanwhile in Jersey City, Assemblyman Sean Connors held a fundraiser at Rita and Joe’s, making people wonder if maybe he will actually run for mayor of Jersey City. Two days later, Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop, who has already said he is running for mayor, held a fundraiser at Jersey City’s Zeppelin Hall Biergarten
“While the election is still a year away, it takes significant resources to fight an entrenched political machine,” Fulop’s invitation read. “The establishment in Jersey City does not want to go easily or quietly.”