And the candidates are…
State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack has frustrated people for months by waiting until two days before the filing deadline to announce – or even make up his mind on – who will be his Assembly running mates in the June Democratic Primary.
The Oscars can hardly compete with Stack’s standup comic routine, which clearly left some bitterness after the envelope was opened on March 26 announcing Jersey City Deputy Mayor Raj Mukherij and Hoboken Housing Authority Director Carmelo Garcia as his running mates in the June Democratic Primary.
In what appears to be a compromise, Stack’s choice of Mukherij suggests that Stack may also be taking a side in the upcoming mayoral conflict pitting Mayor Jerramiah Healy against Councilman Steven Fulop, Jerry Walker, and Abdul Malik.
While Stack’s selection of Mukherij will likely have no negative impact on the still-simmering war between Stack and State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, it may well be seen as a snubbing of Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who was apparently behind a move to have his chief of staff and outgoing Ward D Jersey City Councilman
But most likely, Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith and his never-ending campaign for political peace brought parties together in the district and sought to find candidates that were acceptable to not just Sacco and Stack, but also to the other mayors affected in the district – including Healy and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Zimmer apparently did not sign off on this deal, and both new candidates have strong ties to Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, who is running against Zimmer for mayor in November. Mukherij has ties to Ramos’ campaign attorney, while Garcia is close personal friends with Ramos.
Garcia and Ramos, along with one time Hoboken Councilman Chris Campos, were once called “The Three Amigos” and were part of what was supposed to become a new generation of Latino political power in Hoboken.
Zimmer had wanted Ravi Bhalla as her choice for one Assembly seat, but Stack apparently refused to even consider him. The selection of Mukherij and Garcia seem to have been orchestrated by Stack insiders who are also behind Ramos’ mayoral bid in Hoboken.
Garcia’s selection was somewhat of a surprise, partly because he has been embroiled in a conflict in the Hoboken Housing Authority over the last few months and neither one of these candidates seemed to have been on Stack’s short list that had previously included Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason, Councilman Michael Russo, or even former School Trustee Frank Raia.
Mason may not have been acceptable to Stack’s ally, Republican Gov. Christopher Christie, since she has been very active in statewide Democratic efforts.
Pressing the press
The Fulop and Healy campaigns seem bent on using the media to make a case they can’t make for themselves, pushing the press to publish pieces that they might use in court or in the larger arena of public opinion.
In some cases, candidates are unwilling to stand publicly behind their own charges, preferring to give secret “scoops” that they can use.
Early on in the political fight between Fulop and Healy, the Fulop camp seemed to rely on this strategy, but as of late the Healy camp appears to have taken it up as well.
The annoying thing about this is the tendency of these campaigns to crowd out legitimate whistleblowers – who may have real knowledge of wrongdoing but fear for their jobs or even their lives if they reveal themselves – yet can’t bear the idea that wrongdoing is being done.
While the press often uses political enemies as a tool for seeking out the truth, this should not be part of someone’s campaign strategy, and if one side can’t make its case against the other on its own, then it doesn’t have a case to make. These tactics smack of desperation, and of candidates who may believe they need some legal miracle to win an election they can’t win with their proposed policies.
Open government in Secaucus?
For the first time in recent memory, candidate petition forms filed for Board of Education elections were not readily made public, but required numerous phone calls, at least three visits to various government offices, and eventually an Open Public Records Act request.
“I think these forms should be given to the public,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli, when informed of the difficulty, denying that he had anything to do with the apparent change of policy.
Two calls and one visit to Michael Marra, town clerk, produced the six names of the candidates, but not the forms that showed the addresses of the candidates as well as the signatures of the people supporting them. Marra sent reporters to the Board of Education offices. There, the staff seemed confused by the request, even though such forms were issued in the past, and they said they needed to contact the attorney for a legal opinion, offering an information request form as a compromise and supplying the information within a day. Ironically, Tom Troyer, a candidate in this year’s election, also wanted the information, but refused to fill out the request form.
This change of policy in the Secaucus school district bodes ill for open government since it requires people to jump through hoops for what was a year ago easily available information. It also informs the powers that be who exactly is obtaining information.
In all other Hudson County towns with municipal elections, the forms were simply faxed to the newspapers when requested.
Six people are running for three seats in the Secaucus school elections, including Troyer, Mary Ann Weiner, Salvatore Manente, Cathy O’Connell, John Gerbasio, and John McStowe. Whether any of these candidates will run on a ticket is still to be determined, although Manente, Weiner, and Troyer said they are not campaigning as a slate.
Latino Leadership speaks out on JC police shooting
Richard Rivera, committee chairperson for the Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey, issued a press release regarding the March 8 shooting death of Khalid Bouaiti by a Jersey City police sergeant, requesting a meeting with police officials there to discuss use-of-force oversight and incident tracking. The request has so far gone unanswered.
Rivera has been very active around the state and the nation in tracking and monitoring of police use-of-force incidents, and was instrumental in a lawsuit filed last September by the American Civil Liberties Union with regard to state police activities.
Rumored several times as a possible candidate for Hudson County Sheriff if Stack had decided to run a countywide ticket, Rivera is still a possible choice as an independent candidate in the fall, or for some other seat in Hudson County. Currently employed as the director of the West New York Parking Authority, Rivera is seen as a strong supporter of Stack and of West New York Mayor Felix Roque.