Although the state’s Supreme Court chief justice has until early March to name a deciding vote for legislative redistricting, the real drop-dead date for when new legislative maps for county, state, and federal redistricting are due is April 4.
This could mean utter madness for those seeking to run in the June primary for the U.S. House of Representatives, state Senate and Assembly, and even freeholder, because it will give candidates only seven days to gather signatures on nominating petitions.
While this will matter less if the districts maintain more or less the same boundaries, if the boundaries change radically – as they are expected to do in some cases – then incumbents will have to scramble to get signatures from areas they are not accustomed to.
“This is the reason some people are afraid to move too soon,” said Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, who also serves as chairman of the Bayonne Democratic Organization. “If people gather signatures now, they might be gathering them from the wrong areas.”
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, the Democratic chairman for Hudson County, and Republican Chairman Jose Arango, have radically different maps for freeholder districts. But the real battle will be over all three state legislative districts in Hudson County, which could change radically. It is possible the 31st District, which currently includes all of Bayonne and a large portion of Jersey City, could see a radical shift west, with Bayonne finding itself in the same district as Elizabeth. The 31st District might also expand northward into Hoboken or westward into West Hudson County.
The most significant change will be in North Hudson, where State Sens. Nicholas Sacco and Brian Stack currently serve in adjoining districts. While armchair quarterbacks had hoped for redistricting that would put Sacco in the same district with Stack and ignite a primary battle between two champion teams, most now believe Sacco’s district will be moved into southern Bergen County, losing Secaucus and West Hudson while likely picking up West New York and Guttenberg.
At the center of the freeholder redistricting is the Hoboken district, with its 50,000 population, which will likely lose Jersey City Heights. Hoboken could even be split between two freeholder districts.
Letter gets it wrong
An apparent series of mistakes sent a number of long time Hoboken poll workers – most of whom are senior citizens – into a panic last week.
New to the process, Hoboken Councilman Ravi S. Bhalla, who is also chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Party, sent out a letter to District Board Workers on Feb. 18, informing them that it was time for them to submit applications to serve as district board workers for the upcoming municipal elections.
The letter, however, had several errors of fact. It directed applicants to return their applications to the Hoboken City Clerk’s office, something that hasn’t been done in decades if ever, rather than to the Hudson County Board of Elections in Jersey City. The letter also posted a deadline of March 1, 2011, which was also wrong. The letter also pointed out that school board elections this year will be run on April 27 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Because of Passover, this is a rare Wednesday election. But state laws governing school elections say polls cannot open before 7 a.m.
This last error was generated by a resolution of the Hoboken Board of Education, which set the hours based on a change of state law for regular municipal elections that said polls could open as early as 6 a.m. and close as late as 9 p.m. Although most municipal elections and some school elections around the state generally run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the Hoboken school board amended its elections to run from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. to be in compliance with state law.
The longer hours, political observers point out, will actually benefit reform candidates, allowing more time for commuting parents to access the polls.
St. Patrick’s Parade fundraiser opens political season in Hoboken
The official opening of Hoboken’s election season began at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Fundraiser held last week at Our Lady of Grace Hall in Hoboken.
For 25 years, this has been the event where politicians running for office begin to show their faces. This was still true this year, when City Council reform candidates Rami Pinchevsky, Tom Greaney, and Eric Kurta arrived in suits and ties. Normally, this is not a formal affair. On the other side, incumbent candidates Tim Occhipinti and Beth Mason also worked the room.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who will be backing the reform ticket in May and mostly likely a slate for school board, also made appearance, as did school board candidates Carmelo Garcia and Frances Rhodes-Kearns.
Assemblyman Ruben Ramos and Freeholder Anthony Romano, both seeking reelection this year, wandered in as well.
The city’s parade, slated for March 5, of course has its political overtones, since some residents along the route, particularly in the 5th and 6th wards, may be concerned with the noise.
While Zimmer clearly supports the parade, she is also apparently making moves to keep the noise levels down in two wards where she would like to see her candidates win.
Hoboken Democrats, meanwhile, are holding their annual Lincoln Day event at the Clinton Social Club honoring Ramos, who was supposed to be honored two years ago, but lost the honor due to political infighting. Last year, some reformers boycotted the event when City Clerk James Farina was honored. Hoboken Democrats have held this event since 1986 when they first honored West New York Mayor Anthony DeFino.
Fulop to back school board ticket in Jersey City
Councilman Steve Fulop, an already declared mayoral candidate for the 2013 municipal election, said at his fundraiser at the Beer Garden in Jersey City on Feb. 16 that he will back three candidates for school board this year: Susan Mack, Marvin Adams and Carol Harrison Arnold.