If Mother Nature couldn't stop Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer from pushing through her agenda in the Nov. 6 election, how could her political opposition hope to?
Hurricane Sandy should have a boon to Zimmer opponents, who floated the idea that during the storm, the Zimmer administration largely ignored the remote areas where her support was weakest – a claim Zimmer supporters deny.
Not only did Zimmer-backed Kids First win the school board election on Tuesday’s machine vote, but Zimmer won two coveted referendums that shifted the municipal election from May to November and did away with runoff elections. While this second vote was closer in total than the first, opponents had focused most of their attention on defeating this dubious change, saying that lack of runoff elections was an invitation for political dirty tricks.
These changes will allow Zimmer and her slate of at-large candidates to run at the same time in 2013 as Zimmer’s political ally, Gov. Christopher Christie, and could help bolster not only the citywide vote total but also her campaign coffers.
Christie’s authorization of internet voting in the wake of Hurricane Sandy was largely symbolic, since it requires access to the internet, a scanner or fax, and above all, electric power, components most people – especially in the harder hit sections of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne lacked. More helpful for the national and statewide election was the provisional ballots that allowed displaced people to vote anywhere in the state – provided, of course, the polling place still had enough ballots to hand out.
For Hoboken Democratic Committee Chairman Jamie Cryan, this was a tough election, especially because he believes the electorate in the neediest parts of the city was ill served during the storm and the election.
But people connected closely to the situation said Zimmer worked hard to try and help people throughout the city, and spent time on the phone to the president of the United States and the governor, trying to bring in resources that would help the city recover.
Prior to the press conference held at the Elks Club during the height of the recovery effort, Zimmer met with Gov. Christie and state Sen. Brian Stack, apparently lobbying them for help.
The Hoboken school board election, however, was a bit confusing since Kids First appeared to draw even on what is typically called “Old Hoboken” on several key issues.
But the count isn’t complete, and it is reported that more than a thousand uncounted votes in the election could rob Kids First of one of its victories, and still worse for Kids First, could actually reverse the victory of all three Kids First victories – as unlikely as that seems.
Cryan believed that the internet voting discriminated, and believes that many who voted on the internet did not meet the qualifications for being displaced that the state mandated.
But some outside the city familiar with the campaigns said Zimmer won simply by working hard, while the anti-Zimmer forces appeared to rely on dirty trucks such as so called “Nazi Truck” and midnight flyers rather than using money on the street to locate and get out voters. The negative campaign may well have backfired by mobilizing Zimmer supporters who were outraged by the attacks.
“They should have used money to get people to knock on doors,” said one source. “Negative campaigns don’t work unless you’re [President Barack] Obama.”
Although she was blamed for not being prepared, Zimmer’s supporters says she was out front in trying to improve the city’s pumping system, most of which was constructed in 1948.
“The lady worked hard,” said political figure normally associated with the Old Hoboken crowd, noting that hatred of Zimmer may have hurt the anti-Zimmer coalition. “Zimmer wasn’t even paying attention to the election. She was working to get the city restored.”
Many in his political camp believed this would motivate the anti-Zimmer vote to come out, and indeed, his team apparently worked hard to get people to the polls in what amounted to a losing cause.
Fulop-backed candidate wins big in Ward F.
Jersey City’s special election is seen as a bellwether for May’s municipal elections with Diane Coleman, a candidate backed by Councilman and mayoral hopeful Steven Fulop, winning in all but one of the election districts in Ward F, trouncing Michele Massey, a candidate backed by incumbent Mayor Jerramiah Healy – this despite the fact that Massey had the endorsement of state Sen. Sandra Cunningham and Freeholder Jeff Dublin.
Fulop people are ecstatic, partly because the win shows that they can win in Ward F – and even with a dropoff in voting typical in a municipal election, they feel they will repeat the victory in May.
This also poses a problem for Healy, who must select a Ward F candidate to run in May. Does he go again with Massey who has already lost to Coleman, or does he roll the dice and seek a new candidate to run against Coleman?
“This is a wake up call to Healy that Cunningham and Dublin aren’t in touch with their own community,” said one source.
Fulop people credit the Coleman victory to a difference in campaigns. Massey’s campaign relied strongly on endorsements, while Coleman’s campaign was largely a ground game with a lot of volunteers working the streets, going through old voter lists and hitting up potential supporters. It was also a very stealth campaign one that Healy people did not appear to see coming.
“Before they realized we were there, it was done,” said Tom Bartoli of the Fulop campaign.
Some of the key people in the campaign included Gene McKnight, Mohammad Akil, Jason Folowski, and a very pivotal Ryan Strothers. “They ran the election in Ward F,” Bartoli said.
With Fulop’s cash advantage – he has about $600,000 more in than Healy at this point – Fulop campaign workers feel confident going into the new year.
Sandy helped Obama beat Romney – and helped Christie, too
Although GOP-affiliated news services such as Fox News are emphasizing President Barack Obama’s close victory over Republican Mitt Romney, the election wasn’t close at the end, as Obama overwhelmed Romney in the electoral votes.
“Romney had a shot until Sandy hit,” said one source, referring to Hurricane Sandy that devastated huge portions of the East in the week leading up to the election, giving Obama the opportunity to appear very presidential while shutting down some of the attacks on Obama typical of the Romney campaign. Romney, who ran to the far right in the GOP primary, was unable to shift back to the middle in time to appear less extremist to a less radical voting public.
In the middle of this, Gov. Christie jumped off Romney’s sinking ship and set himself up at a bi-partisan Republican, someone who could shed a tear over the loss of his beloved seaside community and walk side by side with the president he opposed politically.
Sandy almost guarantees Christie reelection as governor next year as he spearheads the effort to rebuild the shoreline. His walk and talk with Obama after Sandy positions Christie as a likely GOP candidate for president in 2016.
“Christie speaks the way most people speak,” said one source. “What comes out sounds like your neighbor. And he’s chipping away at Democrats in Hudson County.”
His meeting with Zimmer and Stack in Hoboken shows that he has strong friends in the community.
Munoz and Jimenez got out WNY vote for Menendez
In what may be a sign of things to come, West New York voters came out in record numbers to support U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s reelection bid, a sign perhaps that the political fortunes of Mayor Felix Roque may have been reversed. Freeholder Jose Munoz said he and Assemblywoman Angelica M. Jimenez worked hard to get out the vote, although Menendez is a popular figure in North Hudson.