West New York Mayor Felix Roque gave new meaning to the old Woody Allen movie by taking back a loan that he had given the Democratic Committee of West New York after the committee was taken over by his political enemies.
Rather than have his own money used against him now that those loyal to the Hudson County Democratic Organization had control of the committee again, Roque withdrew $29,500 from the committee’s account just prior to being voted out as chairman. He apparently did not reckon on an outstanding $2,000 bill which had Democrats howling about the shortage – which he later replaced.
“It’s what he should have done,” said one political observer who has leanings in Roque’s camp. “After all he loaned the money to the committee and he has every right to take it back.”
But opponents of Roque said his camp has been fast and loose with money and are looking for a larger accounting of how the committee money was used in the recent election for committee members, an election Roque’s candidates lost.
“They were moving money around like they were running a banana republic,” said one of Roque’s opponents, picking up on behind-the-scenes rhetoric that has been used against Roque over the last few months, trying to paint Roque into some kind of political dictator.
Roque, in his attempt to reorganize the duties of the West New York Commissioners to lower the profile of possible political opponents, may feed this belief that he is on a constant witch hunt to ferret out possible traitors to his regime.
One possible target of this witch hunt may be Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez, who is said to be a favorite to become the next mayor should Roque be found guilty of alleged charges of hacking. Roque and his son face allegations that they, in an attempt to allegedly intimidate political opponents connected to a recall Roque website, allegedly hacked into the site and obtained information that identified some of the anti-Roque conspirators.
Targeting Rodriguez, however, could alienate some of Roque’s few political friends such as Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and Rep. Albio Sires, both of whom were already embarrassed by some of Roque’s previous political antics such as his aborted support for Republican State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos over Democrat U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
Turner, Sires, and others suddenly had to scramble to explain why a man to whom they had close political ties had supported a Republican against Menendez. While Roque later reversed himself, the damage was done. But Rodriguez appears to have survived by voting for Roque’s reorganization agenda at Wednesday’s town commissioners’ meeting, thus avoiding alienating her allies Sires and Turner, at least for the moment. She may be simply biding her time in case Roque has to step down for some reason. Meanwhile, Commissioner Count Wiley had to be escorted out of the reorganization meeting after he was demoted from being commissioner of public work to commissioner of parks and public property. Wiley is rumored to have close connections to Roque’s arch-enemy, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
Is Stack leaning towards Healy?
Roque’s latest antics also come at a time when his other powerful ally, state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, is actually trying to mend fences with the county’s Democratic organization, the HCDO.
At his fundraiser at Waterside in North Bergen last week, Stack had several surprise visitors including Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and former state Sen. Bernard Kenny – the man Stack forced out of office in a power struggle four years ago.
“Stack greeted them at the door,” one witness said, “then escorted them around the room.”
This suggested to some that there has been a thaw in the relationship between Healy and Stack since a shouting match a few years ago had driven a wedge between them.
The thaw, according to some, could spell trouble for Jersey City Council Steven Fulop, who was counting on Stack’s support and influence in Jersey City Heights to help Fulop get elected mayor next year.
Fulop’s people, however, read the visit differently, calling it a desperate move by Healy, noting that Healy hasn’t been to a Stack event in years, and that he’s desperate to make friends when facing a tough reelection.
What about candidates in Jersey City?
Fulop may have troubles of his own back home where some potential candidates for council say they had been led to believe they were on his ticket when they were actually just being interviewed as potential candidates.
This misperception could drive some of these candidates into other political camps such as Healy’s. This may well be true of two current council members, Viola Richardson and Nidia Lopez, who seemed to have been left out of Fulop’s candidate short list, while Rolando R. Lavarro Jr. has been brought on.
A Healy ticket that includes Richardson, Lopez, and possibly Dan Levin could prove disastrous for Fulop’s mayoral plans. Even if Fulop wins as mayor, he could lose control of the council as opponents sell the voters on the idea that the council will need to act as a counter to Fulop’s over-ambitious agenda.
Equally bad for Fulop is the perception that the Board of Education was not open enough in how they selected candidates for the new superintendent of school position. Some non-political people have already drawn a connection between a board they perceive as politically connected to Fulop and his ambitions to become mayor next year.
DeFazio tapped for possible judgeship
In what could be a real night mare for local Democrats, one possible replacement for Hudson County Prosecutor Ed DeFazio, who has been nominated as a state Superior Court judge by Gov. Christopher Christie, would be longtime political activist, attorney Karen DeSoto. The move by Christie is apparently designed to replace DeFazio with a Republican as prosecutor – just as former Republican Christine Whitman did in the 1990s. This is not the first time that DeSoto’s name as come up in this regard, said a source close to DeSoto; her name was floated as a possible replacement about a year and a half ago. But nothing came of it. DeFazio’s term expires at the end of the month, but he is not likely to be replaced until the fall because the state Senate Judiciary Committee and the state Senate must approve the move, and they are due to go into summer recess shortly.
DeSoto has been a thorn in the side of local Democrats, especially regarding her private legal practice that includes representing racial issues.