Councilman Michael Lenz and his challenger Tim Occhipinti have faced off in public debates, worked the streets of the 4th Ward, lobbed press releases, broadcasted their positions and their endorsements, and now face one last week of hard campaigning before the residents of their ward decide who will represent them on the City Council, and whether Mayor Dawn Zimmer will hold on to her slim one-vote majority on the governing body.
‘Spirits are high’
Occhipinti is cashing in vacation days from his job as a financial analyst for a Manhattan firm to campaign full time. Meanwhile, Lenz, a Hudson County employee who is the unit chief of the Meadowview Complex in Secaucus, has hit the streets, greeting parents and children in the morning on their way to school. He also holds office hours during the evenings at his headquarters.
“Still, even now, a lot of people aren’t tuned in to the election,” said one Occhipinti campaign official, stressing the importance of the final week.
The outcome Nov. 2 will determine who speaks for the 4th Ward on the council and whether mayor’s majority will hold.
Less than two blocks away, on the corner of Observer Highway and Monroe Street, the Occhipinti campaign headquarters had a countdown to victory on their whiteboard as workers also prepared for the 5 p.m. expected rush of 4th Ward residents on their way home from work. The Occhipinti campaign said “spirits are high” after a week that saw an endorsement from Councilman Ronald Rice Jr. of Newark, and the City Council echo concerns brought initially at a meeting held by Occhipinti about the Jersey City natural gas pipeline.
“We’re feeling pretty good,” the Occhipinti campaign official said. “We have a lot of momentum building. It has been that way for the last two weeks, and we feel really energized.”
The Lenz campaign knows the challenges they face.
“Tim has a sizable ‘locked in’ vote, many already turned in on hand-delivered Vote by Mail Ballots, and no matter how anyone looks at it, this is going to be a close election,” a Lenz official said.
Press release wars
On the Lenz side, a campaign official said “voter turnout is the biggest concern.”
“We have already identified enough supporters in the ward to win on Tuesday,” the official said. “Now it’s the work to make sure those people get to the polls.”
Occhipinti held a meeting on Thursday night to address concerns about the Monroe Street and Observer Highway intersection.
The week consisted of almost daily press releases from the Occhipinti campaign, and not much of a response from the Lenz campaign.
Lenz chimed in on many of the issues during the City Council meeting on Wednesday evening, and made sure he had his say. He promoted the tax decrease as chairman of the finance committee; Wednesday’s resolution regarding the southwest plan, which he said will promote the creation of a park; and the importance of cuts in spending to continue to lower taxes.
The press release war seems to have been won by the Occhipinti camp, and it remains to be seen if that translates into victory on Election Day. One source from the Lenz campaign said their time has been devoted to calls, knocking on doors, and shaking hands, rather than sending out press releases.
Occhipinti addressed the southwest park plan, and questioned why more wasn’t done by Lenz.
“Where has the 4th Ward councilman been?” Occhipinti said in a release.
In another release, Occhipinti called for a traffic cop at the corner of Monroe Street and Observer Highway, which is the same corner as Occhipinti’s headquarters.
Finally, Occhipinti asked Lenz to return money he receives in incentives “for opting out of the county health plan and having Hoboken taxpayers pay for his health benefits.”
Lenz did release a flyer that displayed Lenz’s stance on “the real issues” in the city.
The flyer said Lenz “led the council in making a 5 percent tax cut” with a promise for more cuts in the near future. It also said Lenz “fought to build the 4th Ward pump first” and supported EmNet technology that would “help solve the flooding problem for good.” On development, the flyer indicates that Lenz supports “Hoboken-friendly development.”
On the top of the flyer, Lenz and Mayor Dawn Zimmer are smiling together, while the serious faces of Councilman Mike Russo and Tim Occhipinti are paired on the right.
Ray Smith can be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com.