On Tuesday, Hoboken voters in four of the city's six wards will have the opportunity to vote in a runoff to elect City Council members. On the first ballot, held May 13, four of the races resulted in split votes, and there was no candidate who amassed more than 50 percent of the vote. Municipal law dictates that the city had to hold a runoff between the top two finishers in each ward.
The runoffs will be held in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th wards. The polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
The candidates are: In the 1st Ward, Theresa Castellano (incumbent) vs. Ron Rosenberg (Hoboken Alliance for Accountable Government); in the 2nd, Richard Del Boccio (incumbent) vs. Beth Mason (Hoboken Alliance for Accountable Government); in the 3rd Roseanne Andreula (incumbent) vs. former Mayor Anthony Russo; in the 6th, Nino Giacci (incumbent) vs. Daniel deCavaignac (Hoboken Alliance for Accountable Government).
Of the incumbents, Castellano is running as an independent, while Del Boccio, Andreula and Giacci are running with the backing of Mayor David Roberts under the "Hoboken United" slate. The Alliance candidates are critics of Roberts' administration.
In-depth profiles of the candidates can be found in the Hoboken Reporter's archives at www.hobokenreporter.com.
The mayor's ticket of Del Boccio (a retired Hoboken school principal), Andreula, the council's current vice-president and Giacci (a Newark-based lawyer) is running with the campaign slogan "achievements make good politics" and is banking on the public belief in the administration's accomplishments.
The second group that has candidates in the election calls itself the Hoboken Alliance. The group's leaders are former Roberts supporters who say they have become disenfranchised. The group's most visible figureheads are council members Carol Marsh, who is the group's chairwoman but is not up for re-election this year, and At-Large Councilman Tony Soares, who recently ran unsuccessfully to switch to a 4th Ward seat. They say that Roberts has made many promises to reform government but has not acted on them. They note this year's high city budget increase and structural deficit, which was temporarily plugged in with parking revenue, as well as a need for local campaign finance reform.
Finally, there is incumbent Theresa Castellano in the 1st Ward and former mayor Anthony Russo in 3rd. While the two are running as independents, and ran separate campaigns, they are cousins, and have been supporting each other throughout the election process.
"We have been campaigning hard and are pushing forward with a positive message," said Castellano Wednesday evening. "We have stayed the course since May 13 and are very confident about our chances."
Since these elections are in each ward, the makeup of the ward determines the votes. The wards with a higher population of newer residents may think differently than those who have long-time residents.
Last jabs in the 3rd
With only days before the runoff election, the campaigning has been fairly civil in every ward except the 3rd, where Russo is battling his former ally Andreula. (See sidebar.) Andreula first joined the council in a special November 1993 election to replace Russo, who had become mayor earlier that year. In her next three elections, she ran on Russo's ticket, but this year she is being supported by Mayor David Roberts' Hoboken United ticket.
On May 13, Russo won 44 percent of the vote compared to Andreula, who received 24 percent of the vote. Russo got the second highest number of votes citywide, and only Christopher Campos, who won convincingly in the 4th Ward, had more people vote for him.
This is an interesting race because it is an opportunity for Russo to leap back into the spotlight. Russo can boast many accomplishments during his tenure, but was also accused of harshly lashing out at critics.
Russo and Andreula seemed to part ways not long after Andreula's husband, Frank Andreula a lifelong friend of Russo, was arrested for having taken bribes in connection with his chairmanship of the Alcoholic Beverage Control board, a position Russo had appointed him to. Frank Andreula has since served a sentence for the crime.
If Russo is elected to the council, he will undoubtedly have critiques that make Roberts' life more difficult. He lost re-election to Roberts for mayor in 2001.
Charges in the 3rd Ward
In the last five days, both sides in the 3rd Ward election have approached the press with documentation they say proves the other side is committing fraud or intimidation.
Mayor Anthony Russo's camp says that the slate backed by Mayor David Roberts is unduly pressuring school board employees to vote for his candidates. Mayor Roberts did send out a flyer encouraging employees to come to a meeting to talk about their involvement in the campaign.
Roberts's Hoboken United, in turn, says that Russo and his supporters engaged in vote fraud during the May 13 election.
On Wednesday, Russo approached the Reporter with a Roberts flyer inviting school board employees to a "meeting for the upcoming municipal runoff election." The part of the flyer that disturbed Russo reads, "The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the employees' role in the re-election of Councilman Richard Del Boccio, Councilwoman Roseanne Andreula and Councilman Nino Giacchi."
Russo contends that saying "to discuss the employees' role" implicitly implies that employees' jobs are in jeopardy if they do not support the mayor's ticket.
"Tying a person's job to a municipal election isn't right and is completely unethical," said Russo.
Russo also said Roberts "is being a hypocrite" because it was Roberts who in the past implied that Russo was the one that forced city and school workers to vote for him.
In fact, Russo's team many times gave out flyers to municipal employees asking them to turn out for pre-election rallies, inspiring criticism from opponents who believed this was intimidation. The flyers did not actually demand that the employees attend.
Russo said that what Roberts is doing is worse because with Roberts, there is alleged implication that their employment could be affected if they don't attend.
"Sure I asked for their vote, but I never forced anyone to work on my campaign," said Russo. "But they are saying that they have to play a role whether or not they like the candidate."
Mayor Roberts' spokesperson, Bill Campbell, said Friday that he will not comment. "It's not even worth taking the time to comment," said Campbell.
Allegations of fraud
Roberts' complaint, in a press release from the Hoboken United political organization, alleges that Russo and his supporters have committed voter fraud in the ward.
"We have appeared to have only scratched the surface, but in only a short time we have firmly identified three events that strongly suggest widespread voter fraud in the 3rd Ward during the May 13 election," said City Council President Ruben Ramos, who is a Hoboken United supporter and Andreula's campaign manager. "The common link is that it all appears to be associated with the campaign of Anthony Russo."
Ramos then listed three alleged infractions, all of which, according to Ramos, have been forwarded and a formal complaint has been made to Marie Borace, the Hudson County Superintendent of Elections.
One charge is that at two 3rd Ward properties which together have only seven units have 37 registered voters. One of the properties is owned by Russo, and the other is owned by his father-in-law, said Ramos.
The second allegation is that a recent mailing to 24 individuals who apparently voted were returned by the post office. The third involves a Hoboken resident who allegedly attempted to vote under another name.
Russo responded Thursday by saying that this is nothing more than an attempt by Roberts to smear his name days before an election.
"They are out of their minds," said Russo. He added that the allegations are without merit and are a "dirty trick" to sway voters. He said that people who live in his buildings and voted actually do live in his buildings.
Russo said, "The tactics that they have been pulling go well beyond what I have ever seen done in my entire political career."
It is common in Hoboken politics for one side to investigate voter registrations and make charges regarding absentee ballots or regular ballots if they believe a voter was not at the address at which he or she registered. In the past, however, such investigations have rarely gone to trial or resulted in censure. - Tom Jennemann
Side bar 2:
The match-ups for Tuesday's runoff election
Incumbent Theresa Castellano (Independent)
Ron Rosenberg (Hoboken Alliance)
Incumbent Richard Del Boccio (Hoboken United)
Elizabeth Mason (Hoboken Alliance)
Incumbent Rosanne Andreula (Hoboken United)
Anthony Russo (Independent)
Incumbent A. Nino Giacchi (Hoboken United)
Daniel deCavaignac (Hoboken Alliance)