Some critics are calling state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack "a political never-was."
"He could have been one of the powerful leaders of the state; now he's nobody," said one very bitter Stack supporter.
While political events over the last week will hardly make history books the way the British surrender at Yorktown did, or the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, many local political observers believe Stack surrendered to the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HDCO) after nearly a year of open warfare.
Just as Hudson County Democrats were about to split down the middle over a possible primary battle between incumbent U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rob Andrews for the U.S. Senate seat, Stack gave up the fight.
Andrews announced toward the end of last week that he would still challenge Launtenberg, but Stack's lack of public support didn't help. Andrews, who has made similar moves in the past, hoped for a split in Hudson County to make his challenge real.
For a few precious hours, this was possible. But at the last minute, Stack - a key figure in the statewide contest - backed off, agreeing to make peace with the HCDO, which is backing Lautenberg.
Stack apparently received a call from U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, asking Stack to keep the peace.
Stack and leadership of the HCDO are expected to hold a press conference shortly that will announce a ceasefire - and not just in this race. Andrews isn't the only victim of this peace treaty. Local candidates for freeholder apparently will also lose their most powerful ally.
The agreement being worked out will leave the Hudson County Freeholder Board largely unchanged with one significant alteration: Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons said last week that he is unlikely to run again, and the HCDO will back former Hoboken Council President James Fitzsimmons, currently a Hoboken police captain.
Ines Garcia Keim, a strong ally of Hoboken Council member Beth Mason, is also running for this freeholder seat, and apparently is seeking support from neighborhood associations in Jersey City Heights.
Some Stack allies feel betrayed saying that Stack had his chance to step out onto the state political stage as a mover and shaker, and has decided to fall back into the shadows of Union City.
The agreement between Stack and the HCDO, however, is only for the upcoming primary. Stack will back Lautenberg. In exchange, Rep. Albio Sires will get HCDO support for his bid for re-election to the House of Representatives. Stack can continue his support for committee people in Guttenberg, and the deal does not affect his choice to support Hoboken Councilman Michael Russo for mayor of Hoboken in 2009, and Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith for mayor of Jersey City in 2009, if he chooses to do so.
Smith said he has not met with Stack on the matter.
Several freeholder primary battles are expected in Jersey City, Hoboken and Bayonne. Stack is not expected to openly support any candidate against the HCDO.
This means that Jersey City Freeholder Eliu Rivera, who had reportedly withdrawn from the race, will be supported by the HCDO.
Rivera, however, still faces possible challenges by James King and Sean Connors.
The Stack surrender also puts to rest rumors that Jersey City Council Steven Fulop will run against Sires for the House of Representatives.
"The HCDO offered him the seat. He told them to take a hike," said a source close to Fulop.
The HCDO apparently was seeking someone to run in case Sires decided to run with Stack on an alternative ticket. The HCDO was also grooming Jersey City Council President Marianno Vega for the slot.
West New York Commissioner Gerry Lange was also a rumored HCDO candidate to challenge Freeholder Jose Munoz, but the peace treaty will void this possible agreement as well.
Different battle brewing
Another battle over committee seats is brewing in Bayonne, where an anticipated mayoral battle between Police Director Mark Smith and retired Municipal Judge Pat Conaghan is forcing the HCDO to take a side.
Conaghan is being supported by state Assemblyman and Bayonne Councilman Anthony Chiappone. Last year, when Chiappone ran for state election with the HCDO, he was promised control over 40 committee seats. Apparently, HCDO Chairman and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy has decided not to honor the pledge, promising a full-scale committee war in the June primary.
Meanwhile, Healy apparently is building his 2009 slate for council that is rumored to include council incumbents Steve Lipski, Peter Brennan, Marianno Vega, Phil Kenny, and possibly former Councilman Junior Maldonado.
Some political observers believe Freeholder Chairman Jeff Dublin may make a run for mayor against Healy, adding to a collection of possible candidates that include former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, former City Council President L. Harvey Smith, former state Assemblyman Louis Manzo, Fulop, and possibly even state Sen. Sandra Cunningham.