Sarah Palin paid Jersey City a visit last week.
It’s getting to the point where you can’t take a step in Hudson County without running into a Republican candidate for President.
Gov. Christopher Christie, who has said he isn’t running for president, but has met with numerous national Republican leaders as if he was, paid Hudson County a visit a week ago Thursday to help drive a stake into the heart of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO). He even swore in new Mayor of West New York Felix Roque, who beat Sal Vega in one of the most significant HCDO losses this year.
While the Democratic body is still kicking, life is going out of it fast. This may explain why U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez has been seen more in his old ’hood, hobnobbing with crowds that he formerly thought he could count on for their vote.
But the HCDO has some issues in the upcoming June 7 primary elections that could spell problems for the future. Part of it has to do with the new urban dweller who has taken root in what used to be a working class county. Many of those moving to Hudson County have roots in Republican-rich suburbs and bring that sensibility with them.
Hudson County’s Democratic roots go back to pre-World War I, when legendary Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague dominated the state with his ability to get out the poor vote. Even national Democrats such as Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt were beholden to the Democratic machine here. In fact, as late as 1992, Democratic candidates for president – such as Bill Clinton – made token stops here.
Big problems in the Democratic neighborhood
While Palin’s hotel stay in Jersey City likely had no real significance as far as the local political landscape, it is clear that Christie has newfound strength in the heart of Democratic Hudson County.
His appearance in West New York – which once boasted a viable Republican organization – proves that the Democratic machine is faltering, or is perceived to be weak.
This bodes ill for Menendez, who will have to run for reelection next year at a time when national Republicans appear to be focusing on taking back the U.S. Senate – thus making president Barack Obama’s expected reelection victory somewhat hollow.
The June 7 primaries, although seemingly insignificant on the national scale, will test the ability of the HCDO to deliver votes ahead of next year’s presidential and congressional elections. This primary is all about the ability of the HCDO to keep its committee seats and to prevent major divisions in the party.
Hoboken is currently in the middle of one of these divisions, and upstart city Democratic chairman Ravi Bhalla not only seeks to claim one of the Assembly seats in the 33rd District, but is also in a heated battle to control the majority of the 72 committee seats that make up the Hoboken Democratic organization.
Control of municipal committees means control over the money raised, and over which candidates get the money in the future. Since Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a close associate of Bhalla, has indicated she might endorse Christie, a Republican, in the governor’s race in two years, a victory for Bhalla committee candidates could mean a diversion of funds away from candidates like Menendez next year.
The loss in West New York means that committee seats there may also be shifting, especially if Mayor Felix Roque feels similar gratitude towards Christie.
Jersey City, which is the heart of the Democratic machine in Hudson County, is being torn apart by three or four factions – with some leaders such as state Sen. Sandra Cunningham already closely aligned with Christie.
Councilman Steve Fulop is apparently seeking to collect about one third of the city’s committee votes, another huge bite that HCDO might not be able to count on, especially if reports are true that Fulop is backing Hoboken’s Bhalla in the race for Assembly against HCDO-backed candidates Ruben Ramos and Sean Connors. The idea, of course, is to keep Connors from becoming the assemblyman despite an HCDO deal with State Sen. Brian Stack earlier this year to include him on the HCDO ticket.
Fulop and Connors have a bit of history, but more importantly, Fulop may want to keep Connors from gaining a political platform from which he can challenge Fulop for mayor in 2013.
For HCDO Chairman Mark Smith, the June 7 primary is a test of his ability not only to keep the organization from fracturing, but to make certain that it will be a viable entity for next year’s election. Also at stake for Smith is his seat as HCDO chairman.
Last year, Smith faced a significant challenge from Stack, who, had he wanted the chairmanship, might have taken control of the HCDO – despite the fact that the HCDO could count on the committee and municipal chairs of 10 or 11 towns. This year, with West New York shifting political hands, Smith and the HCDO may have three, possibly four municipal committees in opposition and a divided Jersey City.
So what’s really going on with the Hoboken technology office?
For those of you wondering what the heck is going on with the FBI and the e-mails in Hoboken, there are several theories going around.
The version being put out by people close to the Zimmer administration is that someone in the information technology office was leaking information to Zimmer’s political enemies. While some of this may indeed have been public information, the correct process for obtaining that information is through the city open public records system. So, according to that version, Zimmer called in the feds, who seemed to have found enough of something to continue to sniff around.
This is something akin to killing flies with demolition ball – more than a little overkill.
The opposition’s version is that people in the Zimmer administration have been playing fast and loose with public resources, using official e-mails and other communications to target political enemies. When the City Council – controlled by Zimmer’s opposition until July 1 when the balance shifts back to Zimmer supporters – considered a resolution requesting copies of these communications, Zimmer (according to the opposition’s rumors) called in the feds, thus making the information unavailable. This, according to Zimmer opponents, is a stalling tactic that will keep the request on the back burner until Zimmer loyalists retake the City Council on July 1 and vote to void the request.
There are several other more insidious theories, hatched out of the devious minds of the truly politically paranoid. But we won’t go into them here.