Politics is the one place where people can expel a whole lot of hot air over very little, and this has never been so true as in the current political battles going on in West New York and Hoboken.
Long simmering battles are now breaking out into open warfare, with tickets in West New York locked into a race that may be too close to call.
Recently, the incumbent ticket of Mayor Sal Vega attacked the ticket of challenger Dr. Felix Roque on several issues – including alleged election financing laws violations and Dr. Roque’s working with an alleged sex offender.
This last charge, while apparently the most salacious, also may be something of an exaggeration. Some political observers are calling it a “Vega Hail Mary pass” in order to win the tight election. A Hail Mary pass is a football term for a desperate last minute all-out shot on the end zone that, if somehow miraculously accomplished, will win the game for a team that would otherwise lose.
Roque has said that he has been mentoring the sex offender, but was asked to do so by the Board of Medical Examiners.
Last week’s claim in this column that the West New York municipal election is a cold war between political heavyweights U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires drew a lot of denials from every side of the political spectrum.
The fact that Sires dislikes Vega, and that Sires’ former legislative office manager and close ally, state Assemblywoman Caridad Rodriguez, is running against Vega, does not automatically mean Sires is taking a side in the race or secretly backing Rodriguez, who is running on the Roque ticket against Vega – or so the political mantra goes.
“Albio is not supporting Roque,” said a spokesperson for Sires.
Vega’s camp called the cold war analogy “sheer nonsense” at a time when the Hudson County Democratic Organization, which more or less backs Vega and also supports Sires, has put on a united front.
A different can of worms in Hoboken
Hoboken, however, is a whole different can of worms as the HCDO gears up to fight the ticket backed by Mayor Dawn Zimmer in the May municipal elections.
Zimmer ally Ravi Bhalla – encouraged to run for state Assembly against incumbent and HCDO-supported Assemblyman Ruben Ramos – set off the wrath of political heavyweights last week and ignited a feminist firestorm that had Zimmer accusing Ramos runningmate state Sen.
Zimmer isn’t wrong in suspecting that the old boys’ political network in the state and the county may be discriminating against women, since it is clear that the recently-adopted Democratic redistricting map for legislative districts seems to have hurt women incumbents more than it did men. But saying anything about it, especially in a press release, is bound to get those old boys angry at you.
Bhalla’s challenge of Ramos has given the HCDO the excuse it needs to unseat Bhalla after the June primary if the so-called “Real Democrats of Hoboken” can win back some of the HCDO committee seats they lost last year that allowed Bhalla to become chair in Hoboken.
The fight over committee seats boiled over this week when Bhalla submitted a letter to the city clerk seeking to remove 11 of the “Real Democrats” committee candidates from the ballot, and thus reducing the chances of his faction of the Democratic Party losing control.
Smith and the HCDO are taking the matter to court to challenge the expulsions, claiming that the rejections were made on trivial grounds. While the HCDO may lose as many as four of the 11, they expect to retain seven, and fully expect to shift control out of the Hoboken Democratic committee in June.
Each city is divided into wards and political committee districts. Democrats and Republicans elect one woman and one man to each district. Committee people vote in a reorganization meeting after the primary to name a chairman and other key positions in the organization.
Zimmer on the hot seat in council elections
This is all a side show to the main event, which will be the ward council races. Zimmer-backed candidates are facing off against challengers in each of the Hoboken City Council’s six wards. Zimmer needs to win one additional seat and retain incumbent Councilman Peter Cunningham in the 5th Ward in order to regain control of the council that she lost when Tim Occhipinti beat Michael Lenz in last November’s special election.
Zimmer’s ticket appears to have a single message, trying to sell the voting public on the idea that their opponents are somehow connected to corruption. This anti-corruption campaign could backfire if Zimmer or any of her campaign gets bogged down in some kind of election reporting dispute.
If Zimmer does not regain majority support on the council, she will become a lame duck – or largely ineffective mayor – over the next two years as her enemies soften her up with non-stop attacks to weaken her for the 2013 mayoral election in which she will likely be challenged by Assemblyman Ramos.
Secaucus Democrats may be on the rise again
Meanwhile, Secaucus Democrats appear to be in the middle of a fight for control of the committee there. It appears that former mayoral candidate Peter Weiner, former council candidate Michael Makarski, and long time committeeman John Dubiel are putting together a full slate of committee people in an attempt to unite the party.
This move is expected to bring people in from the former Wiener camp, as well as supporters of former Secaucus mayors Anthony Just and Dennis Elwell.