Hoboken Democratic Chairman Jamie Cryan stepped out of his front door on Tuesday to go vote in the election primaries. A resident of the politically heated 4th Ward, Cryan only had to walk across the street to vote in the past.
Not so since the ward was redistricted. Instead, he had to walk four blocks away to another polling station. Someone else who lived next door to that station could no longer go there either, but had been switched to yet another center blocks from his house.
Still others, many of whom live in the poorest part of the 4th Ward, suddenly found themselves cast out from their own polling stations and forced to walk blocks from their homes. This might be enough to make anybody want to give up, go home, and not vote. And considering that these changes were made to the part of the city with the most minority voters, you have to wonder if perhaps there was a little voter suppression going on.
This activity is especially suspicious considering that members of the Democratic committee who are traditionally aligned with opposition to the current administration submitted ideas that were largely ignored in favor of this mousetrap game.
Word was that even U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez found this maze of a voting game more than a little disturbing, and allegedly sought to straighten out some of the kinks, but alas, even one of the most powerful senators was ignored.
The 4th Ward was the center of controversy early in the redistricting process when Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and several of her close associates expressed concern about overcrowding at the election polls in the second district of the 4th Ward, where more than 1,400 people came out to vote Tuesday. But in a district that contains a number of recent Hoboken residents, housing project dwellers, and long time Hoboken residents, did the redistricting benefit one group over the others?
HCDO chair up for grabs?
The chairmanship of the Hudson County Democratic Organization will be decided on June 12, when committeepeople elected in the June 5 primary get together.
This could be bad news for Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, who currently chairs the HCDO, and who has indicated that he would like to continue in that role.
But it has been a turbulent two years as chairman, and most recently he helped split the party in Hudson County by supporting Nia Gill to fill the seat vacated by the death of Rep. Donald Payne, Sr., over Payne’s son, Donald Payne, Jr. who is supported by most of North Hudson as well as by Sen. Menendez.
Gill’s poor showing on June 5 may be the final chapter in Smith’s chairmanship and may push State Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco – the real political leader in Hudson County – to seek someone else.
It was by Sacco’s good graces that Smith was elected county chairman in the first place. This is partly because Sacco – who seems to want to avoid the political spotlight – allowed Smith to take up the role.
It is a thankless task, especially after a 2008 countywide political civil war and at least one lawsuit put the HCDO deeply in debt, and the chairman often had to seek new and creative ways to raise money.
Most people wouldn’t want the job, and the only real advantage it has is that the chairman gets to select which candidates will run on the Democratic line. This will be particularly important in 2013 when Hudson County will see the perfect storm of elections as the governor’s seat comes up, as does the whole state Assembly and state Senate, as well as contested municipal elections expected in Hoboken and Jersey City.
There will likely be a primary fight for governor, with Democrats lining up for their chance to get beaten up by popular Republican Gov. Christopher Christie.
With Sacco up for reelection in a re-designated district, he may be seeking to get someone other than Smith to firm up the Democratic base, a consensus builder who may be able to heal the wounds that were left over the last few years, yet still someone Sacco can rely on.
Several people suggested that Assemblyman Vincent Prieto might fill that role, and because of his recent appointment as chair of the powerful Assembly Budget Committee, he has more clout than your average assemblyman. Some believe his quiet demeanor will provide a new kind of leadership, and most believe he has no bad relationships with any of the political people in the county.
“The question is, can they get Stack on board?” one source said, referring to State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, who is perhaps the second most powerful political leader in Hudson County.
Stack may be influenced by Menendez, for whom a divided Hudson County is the most detrimental. Instead of going to a few prominent leaders, Menendez this year has to weave through the labyrinth of petty political overlords, who may have a clutch of votes to offer and a lot of demands to make for providing them. While Menendez will be running on the line with Pres. Barack Obama in November, he still has a fight throughout the state to get reelected, and needs a solid base of votes from Hudson County – which might be possible if the rifts are healed.
Pincus was appointed by City Council, not by Zimmer
This column received a lot of flack over a claim made two weeks ago that Hoboken Zoning Board member Nancy Pincus (a.k.a the Grafix Avenger) was appointed to the board by Mayor Dawn Zimmer. As it turns out, she was appointed by unanimous vote of the City Council, after being nominated by then Council President Carol Marsh and seconded by Councilman Peter Cunningham, both Zimmer allies. Zimmer does not appoint zoning board members.