Although Jose Munoz said the election for a new mayor in West New York will likely bring out a number of candidates, he won’t be one of them if Mayor Felix Roque steps down.
“I’m happy as a freeholder,” he said, noting that the freeholders seem to be playing a more vital role in the community over the last few years, a role that he sees expanding.
But Munoz won’t have an easy time of keeping his freeholder seat, Roque said, seeing Munoz as too aligned with State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
“Munoz does not represent Sacco’s district; he represents ours,” Roque said.
Powerful forces are lining up behind specific candidates to replace Roque if he steps down or is recalled. But it is unclear if Sacco will still support Commissioner Count Wiley after the claims made by Wiley’s father James in September about being ordered to do political work around the county while still being on the time clock as North Bergen employees. Sacco may choose to fall in line with Rep. Albio Sires and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, who appear to be backing a ticket led by Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez. She is seen as the front runner, although Wiley supporters beg to differ.
A former Union City official said this week that he had been approached by Richard Rivera to work on his campaign for mayor. Wiley and Rivera clashed slightly at a recent commissioners’ meeting during the public session. Rivera has run for office previously, once seeking to supplant then-Hudson County Sheriff Joe Cassidy in 2004, and had once considered challenging then-Freeholder Sal Vega in 2002, even going so far as to take out nominating positions.
Republican County Chairman Jose Arango, a resident of West New York, said Rivera would run “a law and order campaign” based on his history as a whistleblower and his apparent undercover work during the early 1990s. But Arango said WNY needed new blood and new faces that were not tied to past problems plaguing the city.
But Rivera’ law and order slate appears to be seeking to inherit Roque’s people, although at the same time, keeping at arm’s length from Roque himself. The new slate will likely run a campaign based on no connection to the past such as Vega or Roque, while at the same time campaigning against slates that still retain a connection of any kind to the power structure.
This is designed to appeal to the Roque people, who had backed him as anti-establishment candidate. Several political observers believe this kind of slate could win, provided it has the right candidate on top, someone charismatic like Roque.
While sources claim Rivera, a one time supporter of Roque, had broken from Roque, Roque said, “I really admire Richard and his family. He is bright and has a history in law enforcement.” He hinted that there might be common ground between the two that might allow Roque supporters to transition to Rivera.
Meanwhile Wiley said he may inherit some of the committee people from the Vega era that Roque dumped. Wiley said he is embracing some of these as long-time residents, who have the best interest of the community in mind.
Munoz, however, said it will be a crowded race with a number of people seeking to take Roque’s seat. The most organized will likely win, other observers say. It won’t be enough to inherit Roque’s people, because much of the anger against Vega has dissipated, and the Roque indictment has left a bitter taste in some people’s mouths, a sense of betrayal that may send them scurrying back to more recognizable candidates. In this, Rodriguez might well prevail.
Roque, however, denied that there was a break between him and Sires, but said he understood why some public officials need to stay away from him.
“It’s the indictment,” Roque said, but pointed to his support for Sires’ wife as president of the West New York Board of Education. “There is no break between me and Albio.”
Where State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack stands in all this remains a mystery, although he and Roque apparently embraced at the recent Union City/North Bergen Hispanic Day Parade, where hosts of followers seem to swell around both leaders, and included Sires as well as Freeholder Chairman Eliu Rivera from Jersey City.
Roque said they met during the parade at the park on 80th Street and that he truly admires Stack.
“I have a lot of respect for Brian,” Roque said. “He does good work for the people in Union City just as I am trying to do in West New York.”
Meanwhile, Hoboken on Wednesday filled the council seat left vacant by the resignation of Carol Marsh. Although names flew around like autumn leaves in the gust of hot political air, most agreed that the short list would include
Meanwhile, forces loosely aligned to oppose Mayor Dawn Zimmer in next year’s municipal election are still in disarray. While Assemblyman Ruben Ramos appears to be a front runner, some suggest that he should ask for support from Democratic Chair Jamie Cryan, former school trustee Frank Raia and sitting council members Michael Russo, Tim Occhipinti, Terri Castellano, and Beth Mason – suggesting weak support if any.
Worse for the anti-Zimmer people was a poll done on their behalf that shows Zimmer with a solid 60 percent approval rating – and this even before she kicks off her reelection campaign.
Some in the anti-Zimmer camp believe that they should change their strategy to retake the City Council instead.
“That would make Zimmer a figurehead,” one member of that camp said.