In a May election and then in a June run-off, political newcomer Dawn Zimmer faced then-incumbent Christopher Campos for the seat, touching on issues including the flooding in that part of town and the desire for more park space.
Zimmer, after falling 137 votes short in the May election, which included four other candidates, ultimately beat Campos by eight votes in the June run-off.
After Campos led a long investigation to prove that some of Zimmer's voters were invalid, and Zimmer countered by saying the same about some of Campos's votes, both parties agreed last week to settle the matter in November, rather than putting a slew of voters through a lengthy trial.
The Hoboken special election will share the ballot with the upcoming state legislative elections, which are scheduled for Tuesday Nov. 6.
The settlement from both candidates stated that they wanted the new election "so that the people, rather than a court, will make the final decision," according to a joint statement.
Decision changes balance of council
Because the run-off election results were nullified by the candidates' agreement to hold a new election, Zimmer was told to relinquish her seat on the council by an order from State Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallipoli. The 4th Ward vacancy will result in an eight-person City Council, meaning that if a 4-4 tie occurs on any vote, the resolution or ordinance will fail, according to Corporation Counsel Steven Kleinman.
Kleinman said that bonds and various financial ordinances or resolutions still require a six-member vote, needing two-thirds of the council's support to pass.
Will be even more heated
Hoboken's council elections can become very heated in a densely populated mile-square city with lots of development dollars, contracts, and political appointments at stake.
In addition to the many local supporters both candidates have, the November race is expected to draw attention from Hudson County's two most powerful political factions, the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), which provided Zimmer with some support in the last race, and the recently formed Democrats for Hudson County (DFHC), run by Union City Mayor/33rd District Assemblyman Brian Stack, who is likely to win a state Senate seat in his own November election. Stack and his organization provided some support to Campos last time around.
Thus, while two City Council candidates battle it out, the election also becomes a way for two county organizations to try to increase their power.
According to Business Administrator Richard England, the new election will cost the city approximately $25,000, which includes board workers and printing costs for the sample ballots.
Campos and Zimmer weigh in
In an interview on Wednesday, Zimmer said she didn't want to see her supporters dragged into court for a possible two-month trial over "technicalities."
In one case, a Zimmer voter said the Campos investigation determined that his absentee ballot was improper simply because he helped his wife fill out her ballot while she was feeding their baby. (See letters page).
"Rather than waste people's time in court, I would rather be campaigning, going door to door, and talking to residents about the issues that are affecting them," Zimmer said last week. "I felt strongly that the people of the 4th Ward should make the decision on who represents them, not a judge."
Zimmer's large number of absentee ballots became a bone of contention in the race. In previous years, absentee ballots were filled out in advance if a voter couldn't make it to the polls - and powerful political organizations would often collect a large number of them in advance to help win a race. This year, state laws were eased to allow people to fill out the ballots in advance for any reason, and Zimmer managed to get almost 100 more than Campos.
In response to Zimmer's description of the charges against her campaign as being technicalities, former Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann, who led Campos' investigation, charged last week that some of the acts were "criminal" rather than technicalities.
McCann presented affidavits from several individuals who alleged that they were paid by the Zimmer camp to vote for her in the runoff. A signed affidavit by William Velez states, "I did not work for Dawn Zimmer. I merely received the money for voting for Dawn Zimmer which I did."
Another signed affidavit presented by McCann was that of Velez's mother, Candelaria, a disabled Hoboken resident who certified that she received $50 from the Zimmer camp although she had recently received a hip replacement which at the time had made her "totally disabled." Candelaria added, "I did not work on Dawn Zimmer's campaign. I merely received the money for voting for Dawn Zimmer which I did."
McCann, who himself was convicted of bank fraud in the 1990s, said, "Dawn Zimmer is the reform movement [in Hoboken]; she's wealthy [and] can afford to buy the votes." McCann added, "She didn't vacate her seat for the people of the 4th Ward; she left because she was ordered to by a judge after consenting to a new election because people in her campaign [according to McCann] committed [alleged] criminal acts."
In response to McCann's allegations, Zimmer said, "I can tell you that my campaign hired people to work, not vote. Mr. Campos 'hired' over 380 4th Ward voters, 40 percent of his vote total, on election day, and paid them approximately $30,000. It's time for the pot to stop calling the kettle black."
Zimmer continued, "If even one of Mr. Campos's claims of actual fraud had any merit, he would not have settled. Through all Mr. Campos's smoke, this case was not about fraud; it was about the attempt to disenfranchise voters for the smallest of technicalities. Mr. Campos and Mr. McCann are distorting the issues, and attempting to mislead the public as to the real issue."
Zimmer also said that in her investigation she uncovered "many people" who did not live in the 4th Ward who voted in the June runoff, as well as numerous signatures in the voter rolls that she claims did not match up with the signature on file with the Board of Elections.
When asked how he felt about the result of his complaint, Campos said, "I'm just thankful to everyone who helped me through this really tough time. I'm very humbled by the opportunity to take part in the process again." Campos added, "I think we need to move forward and deal with the issues. I'm going to roll up my sleeves and address the concerns of every person in the 4th Ward."
Campos' ELEC report and DWI charge
According to Campos, his state campaign spending (ELEC) report, which was months overdue, was finally sent to the Board of Elections this past week. He said that it was late because of issues he was having with a bank he used for his campaign.
In another issue currently involving Campos, the former councilman's next scheduled court date for his DWI charge is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 17.
The case will more than likely be postponed, according to Campos, who said that his attorney has yet to receive the requested communications made by the arresting officer.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org