Some people are calling this year’s May 12 mayoral election a “seminal” moment for Hoboken, considering that the present mayor (David Roberts) oversaw a controversial 47 percent increase in property taxes this year, and the previous mayor (Anthony Russo) went to prison for taking bribes.
If it’s time for new blood, that may be what the city gets – since for the first time, the three leading contenders were not born and raised in Hoboken, as past mayors were.
Council members Peter Cammarano, Dawn Zimmer, and Beth Mason have all officially announced their candidacies for mayor, and in the last two weeks, each candidate announced his or her team of three council-at-large members who will vie for three seats on the nine-member City Council in May.
A fourth potential contender, 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo, said last week he had not yet made up his mind whether to run. He only has until this Thursday to decide.
His ally who had said he might run with him, Frank Raia, said last week that he will focus on getting re-elected to the school board this April instead.
Some have said that Russo plans to back Mason, but Mason said last week that there was no special arrangement or coordination with Russo.
Stack and the HCDO
However, Mason acknowledged that – as long rumored – she expects the support of Union City mayor, state senator, and political heavyweight Brian Stack. Last spring, Mason had criticized opponent Dawn Zimmer for taking support from an outside political organization, the Hudson County Democratic Organization. Stack formed his own organization that year to take on the HCDO machine, but the following December, Stack’s allies held a press conference to announce a “truce” with them.
Aside from the three council people who plan to run, two other residents have thrown their hats into the mayoral ring: Tom Vincent and Frank Orsini.
Anyone else who wants to run has until this Thursday, March 19 to file with City Hall.
Updated news on the candidates is frequently posted on our new breaking news site (www.hudsonreporter.com), so check back daily.
Mason’s Friday announcement
After weeks of anticipation, Mason finally announced Friday morning that she would run for mayor, and will include a council slate of Anthony Pasquale, Vincent Addeo, and Raul Morales II.
Pasquale recently retired as vice president of an insurance firm where he dealt mainly with finances. He is also the former chairman of the Hoboken Housing Authority board, appointed during the Russo administration.
Addeo is a labor relations expert who spent several months on the City Council in 2003. Addeo was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Anthony Russo when Russo stepped down from his 3rd Ward council seat due to health reasons. Addeo had run for council earlier that year, but lost.
Morales is a young attorney whose father is a senior vice president at Applied Housing. Morales worked at Scarinci and Hollenbeck, a politically-connected Lyndhurst law firm, for a short time before law school. He recently passed the New York and New Jersey bar exam on the first try.
In this contentious year in Hoboken, Morales, Addeo, and Pasquale have not been speaking out at council meetings or writing letters, but Mason said that they have been critical behind the scenes.
“You don’t have to stand in front of a TV camera to get your point across,” she said. She added that their lack of a connection to City Hall is a plus. “We don’t have a lot to undo,” Mason said.
Zimmer announced earlier last week that her ticket consists of Carol Marsh, Ravinder Bhalla, and Dave Mello.
Former Councilwoman Marsh ran for mayor in 2005 and forced a runoff election against Roberts. For a time, she disappeared from the forefront of the local political landscape. She has served as the co-vice president of the powerful Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO). But she said she has since severed those ties in anticipation of running for Hoboken office.
Bhalla is a government law specialist who until recently had worked as a contracted attorney for the city’s rent board. Bhalla has – unlike many of the other council candidates – been speaking out at council meetings and through letters to the editor about city mismanagement.
Dave Mello is a political newcomer who was drawn into the arena through a few grass-roots organizations. Mello is a middle school teacher with a law degree, and he was engaged with the local groups SW6 and Save Block 11 in their crusade for more park land in the southwest corner of town.
Zimmer was asked about the rumors that she will be supported by the HCDO. During her council race two years ago, she received $4,000 in donations from two HCDO members, and was criticized by Mason for doing so.
Zimmer did not rule out taking funding from them to support her race, but she noted that the majority of her funding for her council race in 2007 came from Hoboken residents.
“I have never, and will never, compromise my integrity in exchange for political support,” she said Friday. “During my time on the City Council, I have never cast a vote based on any criteria other than what I believed was best for Hoboken. If the citizens of Hoboken give me the opportunity to serve as their mayor, I will continue to govern in that manner.”
Cammarano: Out of the gate early
Councilman Cammarano’s ticket includes Angel Alicea, Frances Rhodes-Kearns, and Mike Novak.
Rhodes-Kearns is the president of the school board and the cousin of Cammarano-backer and former county Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons.
Alicea is a Union City police detective who volunteered for over 20 years on the Hoboken Housing Authority board, most recently as chairman. Last year, Zimmer and other council members decided that it was time for a change in the projects, and in a controversial vote, they appointed a new member of the board instead of Alicea. Many residents of the HHA came to the council meeting and objected to the vote to replace Alicea.
Novak, president of Atlantic Environmental Solutions, an environmental consulting firm, was recently appointed to the city’s Zoning Board by Roberts.
Cammarano, a young attorney, was initially an ally of Roberts when he came into office in 2005, but the following year began criticizing him harshly.
Cammarano’s major point of contention with the other two main mayoral candidates is that he voted to pass the city budget last year, while Mason and Zimmer failed to do so, saying it was underfunded. This matter forced the state monitor to come into Hoboken. Cammarano says that if Hoboken had retained control over its finances, taxes would not have had to be raised as much (see BUDGET story).
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at email@example.com.