Waiting for the political war?
Several questions seem to haunt the local political scene these days, but none bigger than what Hudson County Democrats will do about state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack – who seems to be on the verge of waging another political war.
“There won’t be a political war if we can keep him isolated,” said one political observer.
This means that the HCDO has to reign in all of those Democrats who might otherwise be tempted to take Stack’s side in a dispute.
While rumors have been circulating that Assemblyman Ruben Ramos Jr. might mount a primary challenge against Rep. Albio Sires for the 8th District House of Representatives seat with the support of State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco – Stack’s long-time political nemesis – one source doesn’t believe it will happen.
“Albio is not going to want to run off the line with Stack,” this source said. “And we wouldn’t want him to.”
This may also be because Sacco wasn’t able to get a consensus of Democrats behind Ramos.
Sacco apparently went to Bayonne to meet with Mayor Mark Smith two weeks ago to ask for support for Ramos. He was told that Smith and the Bayonne contingent would continue to back Sires – publicly, at least.
And yet, in a move that seemed to contradict this, Sacco and Smith paid a visit last week to Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner – who is the chief of staff to Sires – because Sacco wants assurances that they will stay loyal Democrats and not go with Stack.
The underlying issue to all this is that Sacco wants the North Hudson Regional Fire Department’s public relations contract restored to his favorite Secaucus-based PR firm, and he also wants the PR contract for the North Hudson Sewerage Authority, formerly held by the late Maurice Fitzgibbons, to go to this firm as well.
This is a tall order, since the Sewerage Authority is made up of representatives from Union City, West New York, Weehawken and Hoboken. While Turner and Hoboken might go Sacco’s way, Stack-controlled Union City won’t, and West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque has already made it clear he won’t agree to giving out contracts to vendors just because they’re favored by the party.
A poll to see who voters might choose
If Sacco doesn’t get his way on the PR contracts, he apparently is threatening to back Ramos against Sires for the House of Representatives seat in the June primary. Indeed, a telephone poll was conducted last week asking potential voters who they would vote for in the 8th District: Sires, Ramos, Freeholder Anthony Romano or Freeholder Bill O’Dea.
The polling came from two phone numbers located in Sussex County, suggesting that the poll was taken by Sacco’s favorite pollster, Rich Shafton, on his behalf.
This may be a mere shot across the bow to make it clear how serious Sacco is about getting Sires and Turner in line, but it is an effective one. With the help of Smith as head of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), and a very loyal ally to Sacco despite the snub on Ramos, the senator could force Sires to run off the Democratic line, making it even more difficult for him to beat Ramos in a primary battle.
Meanwhile, sources close to Ramos claim he isn’t even certain just what seat he wants to run for. Does he want to challenge Sires, or run against Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer for mayor in 2013, or does he want to keep the seat he has and make a bid for the HCDO chairmanship in June?
Even keeping his Assembly seat might be a problem, since he may once more face a challenge from Hoboken Council President Ravi Bhalla, a Zimmer ally. This time Stack may actually back Bhalla, and the ideas is sending shivers down the collective spines of the HCDO.
Democratic threat could cause political war
The threat to run Ramos against Sires might backfire on Sacco and cause even more hostilities among Hudson Democrats, pushing Sires and Turner to finally become open political allies with Stack in a countywide fight. There has also been a sudden thaw between Stack and Hoboken Mayor Zimmer, both of whom have cast their lot with Republican Gov. Christopher Christie.
But they have not yet gone as far as West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque to endorse Republican Sen. Joe Kyrillos against Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez next fall.
Oscar Cordero, a one-time Menendez worker, said Dr. Roque was foolish for making the endorsement.
“He’s doing this for personal reasons, and it’s not politically wise,” Cordero said. “Roque did this to get back at Menendez for endorsing Vega in the last election.”
During the municipal elections last spring, Menendez endorsed then Mayor Sal Vega, who Dr. Roque eventually defeated.
“If I was Roque, I would have invited Menendez into West New York,” Cordero said.
While he isn’t predicting a political civil war in Hudson County, Cordero believes that Stack is powerful enough to scare Democrats.
“Stack can get people onto the street,” Cordero said.
When he ran for state Senate against Vega four years ago, Stack sent a message to the HCDO by sending his workers into Jersey City Heights, proving that he can bolster an opposing candidate in the old-fashioned political way.
“Stack still campaigns door to door,” Cordero said. “The others use TV and newspapers. It’s not the same thing.”
Bayonne's Flores will challenge Sires
Sires will face opposition even if Democrats make peace before the primary. Sires will have competition from the Republicans in November, as Bayonne resident Washington Flores gears up the David vs. Goliath fight that always takes place when a Republican tries to unseat a Democrat in heavily Democratic Hudson County.
But Hudson County isn’t what it used to be, as Stack, Zimmer, and Dr. Roque have proven, and though it is likely the county vote will come out in favor of President Barack Obama in the fall, Christie’s ability to chip away at the foundations of Democrat power here will sooner or later have a local impact and result in the election of Republicans to seats traditionally thought as always Democratic.