The political temperature in Jersey City has been climbing lately, even though many people say the actual campaign for the hearts and minds of the voting public wasn’t supposed to start until the presidential campaign was out of the way.
As President Barack Obama dukes it out with Republican challenger Mitt Romney over the need for a larger navy – mostly because Romney needs to win Virginia where many of the ships are built – Jersey City mayoral candidates have already started sparring, trying to convince potential fundraisers that the other candidate can’t win.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s selection of Dan Levin as a Ward E candidate struck a body blow against Councilman Steve Fulop’s mayoral aspirations, but did not score a knock out, and the special election for the Ward F council seat could do as much to bolster Fulop’s hopes, especially if Diane Coleman gets a big win.
Redistricting has put more of what was formerly Ward E (Fulop’s home turf) into Ward F, and gives his campaign the foothold it needs to secure one of the more challenging parts of the city for Fulop. While a lot of the Ward F election will depend on what state Sen. Sandra Cunningham does, Coleman could prove to be Fulop’s most powerful blow against Healy.
“When she wins she will be our candidate in Ward F,” said one Fulop political operative.
Well-funded, with a bankroll of around $700,000 ($200,000 already spent on election team), the Fulop campaign seems well on its way to out-spending and out-organizing the Healy campaign (which has around $130,000.) Healy has several significant problems going into this election, but the most significant is the lack of a grass roots organization. Political observers say Fulop not only has much more money than Healy, but also has a significant number of volunteers, who are enthused and well organized, while Healy hasn’t yet developed his citywide organization, most of whom will likely have to be paid professionals.
Healy’s advantage to this point is his ability to communicate with people throughout the city, as reflected in a pretty substantial poll done for his camp which shows him 14 points ahead of Fulop in head-to-head competition. Neither Fulop nor Healy have paid much attention to Wards A and C, where the election will likely be decided. For Fulop, the challenge will be getting his face out beyond his usual base to somewhat offset Healy’s advantage in name recognition.
With a war brewing in North Hudson between state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco and state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, outside influence on the Jersey City may have less of an impact than in the past, since both sides will be gearing up for a potential Democratic primary a month after the Jersey City election.
“Sacco’s name is mud right now after what happened with (James) Wiley,” one political observer said, referring to the accusations from former North Bergen DPW superintendent Wiley, who said workers from North Bergen had been ordered to take part in political campaigns around the county.
Stack on the other hand, appears to revamping his state legislature ticket and is rumored to be considering running Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason and Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez as his assembly candidates, casting current Assemblyman Sean Connors out and allowing Assemblyman Ruben Ramos to run against Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Park the truck and get on with the election
Hoboken politics still overshadows other towns for its silliness. The Board of Education race was tainted last week with the appearance of what many are calling “the Nazi Truck,” which appears to be an effort by anti-Zimmer people to taint the Kids First ticket by reminding the voters of an ongoing legal battle in which two prominent pro-Zimmer bloggers are involved.
Those who hired the sound truck obviously hope to capitalize on the legal dispute now being considered by the courts, which prompted several local rabbis to defend the blog Grafix Avenger, who invented the graphic depicted on the truck and later apologized to the Jewish community for the alleged Nazi references.
Naturally, pro-Zimmer supporters immediately blamed Mason, claiming she paid for the truck. This is an ongoing mantra that paints Mason in every conspiracy possible, much in the way other conspiracy theorists blame everything on the CIA or space aliens.
“That’s nuts,” one Mason supporter said. “If Beth wanted to do something like that, she wouldn’t be hiring a sound truck. She’s much more media savvy than that.”
The Nazi truck only added one more wrinkle in an already complicated school board election, where some people not affiliated with either camp find reason to not want to vote for Kids First or Move Forward, claiming both camps seemed to be more interested in making political points against the other than talking about the kids they are supposed to be helping.
Doyle vote lawsuit a waste of time
Although blamed for supposedly paying for the Lane Bijardi lawsuit against the bloggers, Mason does appear to be behind a suit to force the City Council into voiding a vote that named Jim Doyle to the council seat vacated by Carol Marsh’s resignation. According to insiders, the suit says the council acted improperly when it appointed Doyle with only four votes. Mason was inconveniently absent from that meeting and Councilman Michael Russo abstained from the vote. Again, anti-Zimmer people appear to be wasting time and money in trying to avert the inevitable since even if they prove their argument that the appointment needs five votes on a council evenly divided between pro and anti-Zimmer council members, Zimmer would be the deciding vote (unless, of course, anti-Zimmer council members intend to take turns being absent each time the matter comes up for a vote.)