At his September fundraiser, Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith put an end to speculation as to whether he would run for a second full term.
While Smith did not announce a ticket, he said he will seek to retain the seat he first achieved in a 2008 special election and later at the regular 2010 municipal election.
This comes ahead of a reported alternative ticket forming against him, and two already declared candidates for the May 2014 election.
Smith’s position has been strengthened by a number of economic factors, not least the announcement by Royal Caribbean cruise ship line that it will build a new terminal in Bayonne. This move clears the path to residential and commercial development at the former Military Ocean Terminal. Combined with the settlement and possible winning of other lawsuits, the city may be poised to see an upturn just in time for Smith’s reelection bid.
Smith’s opposition has been spinning tales of an FBI raid on the city – which is a strong exaggeration, since the city apparently cooperated fully with federal inquiries into its Community Development Block Grant loans program.
Ill feelings over changes in rent control, coupled with dissatisfaction with the mayor-appointed school board, which has yet to settle contracts with teachers, gives fuel to the alternative ticket. But will these be enough to unseat Smith?
Political stars come out for DeGise fundraiser
Political fundraisers aren’t always about raising money – although getting support is always a good thing.
Sometimes, these events are designed to send a message.
In the case of the recent fundraiser for County Executive Tom DeGise, the message was a telegram to Freeholder Bill O’Dea: Don’t run. Stop. DeGise has plenty of support. Stop.
O’Dea, who supported the election efforts of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, is a rumored challenger against DeGise in the 2015 election.
The endorsement of State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco means that DeGise will see strong support from North Hudson including Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Rep. Albio Sires (who recent attended a Fulop fundraiser as well) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
Even Fulop sent a representative to the DeGise event, suggesting that O’Dea may no longer have the blessing of the mayor.
Smith in Bayonne as well as Hoboken Dawn Zimmer will likely support DeGise against O’Dea, and will force O’Dea to see support from State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack – who will not likely want to start a new Democratic civil war over DeGise.
Several factors seem to have spoiled the water for the two men, but most acutely, Fulop’s distaste for Civil Service which he sees as costing the city money. O’Dea is hardcore supporter of unions and Civil Service.
Fulop’s move to combine the Department of Public Works with the Jersey City Improvement Authority may be the wedge issue that finally breaks Fulop/O’Dea alliance.
The JCIA also has a number of people with strong ties to state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, an O’Dea ally, and may spoil Fulop’s political plans to rid the 31st District of Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, who Cunningham ran with in the last election. O’Donnell is also a well-known union supporter.
The Fulop administration may also find itself in legal difficulties if trying to combine DPW with JCIA since the JCIA has enforcement authority (i.e. the ability to issue tickets) and the DPW does not.
Ramos holds hearing on jitney buses
In what appears to be a political blunder ahead of his election bid for mayor of Hoboken, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos apparently failed to include U.S. Senator Menendez and Rep. Sires in his hearings on jitney buses, letting them know at the last minute.
Ramos had hoped to capitalize on public outrage over the death of an infant in July after a jitney bus driver – while talking on a cell phone – crashed into a pole in West New York.
While well-intentioned, the Ramos move appears to have offended top political figures in Hudson County who have also been involved in the process of seeking better regulation of the jitneys.
Seen as political grandstanding, the Ramos hearings seem to have failed to follow up on work already done by others on the local and federal level, and failed to include potential allies in his election effort.
While Menendez, Sires, and others already deeply involved in dealing with the tragedy appear to be backing Ramos’ opponent, Mayor Dawn Zimmer, Ramos could have made some significant gains by including them in a process they already had an interest in.
While it is unlikely Menendez and Sires will jump into the Hoboken municipal race with both feet, it is clear the Ramos insult did little to win their friendship.
Roque verdict will likely come in early October
West New York Mayor Felix Roque may be on the ropes in his attempt to get out from under accusations that he conspired with his son to hack into the website of his political enemies. Even if Roque is found innocent, he and his associates may still face legal issues as a result of a state Department of Education report that suggested he took political retribution against perceived enemies employed by the school district.
City workers must be going out of their minds trying to read the tea leaves to figure out which of the possible new regime to align with. Although some observers believe that a deal has been struck already to fill Roque’s commissioner’s seat if he is forced to vacate it, putting in an employee from the school district, inevitably a special election will have to be conducted. Commissioner Count Wiley, former Mayor Sal Vega, Carlos Betancourt, Osachi Francia, and others are vying to fill the seat. On top of this, Wiley’s recall election looms. While it is uncertain if he has enough valid signatures for the recall, if so, then this will mean all the insiders associated with Roque will be fighting for their political lives.
If convicted, can Roque delay resigning?
According to several public officials, Roque would be required to leave office, and if he refuses, then the Attorney General’s office will come in, remove him, and force a special election.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.