Mayor-elect Steven Fulop’s biggest problem now will be proving he can do everything he’s been saying he could do for the past seven years.
His decisive victory in Tuesday’s runoff City Council races puts him and his aggressive agenda in the spotlight. As a critic of Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Fulop was always frustrated by either lack of control of the council or by Healy’s opposition.
He will now have four years to prove himself.
Oddly enough, the one candidate supposedly supported by Fulop, Sean Connors, lost his bid to become councilman in Ward D to Michael Yun – whose well-funded campaign seemed to generate significant support Connors could not get.
While the Fulop team appeared to support Connors in the May election, this support appeared to evaporate in June, leaving Connors largely on his own.
This may be because some in the Fulop camp see Connors as a potential rival against Fulop in the 2017 mayoral election. By denying Connors a council seat, the Fulop camp denied him a platform upon which to build a future campaign.
Although Fulop supposedly supported Nidia Lopez, Richard Boggiano won big in Ward C and will likely become a strong Fulop ally.
The stunning loss of Viola Richardson in the at-large races may well show weakness in state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, who backed her.
The Fulop victory spells the end of an era that stretches back for more than a decade and the demise of the old Democratic machine, as the new faces replacing the old guard better reflect some of the demographic changes the city has seen.
Fulop is expected to dismantle many of the out-of-date municipal systems, and if successful, Jersey City could see a revitalization unrivaled since the 1980s when waterfront development was still a gleam in the eyes of city planners.
A year of elections
The death of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg promises to feed the political campaign industry for the summer and fall, after Gov. Chris Christie announced a special election in October. The multimillion dollar price tag associated with the special election has raised complaints by some who asked why Christie couldn’t have waited another month to hold it with normal November election.
But he has two good reasons for not doing so. A special election held in October will likely have a lower turnout than a regularly scheduled election and will give Republicans their best shot at taking a seat that has been held by Democrats for decades. Holding a special election in November when Christie is running for reelection could actually bring out more Democrats. While Christie is not likely to lose, this could reduce his margin of victory and could impact state legislative elections. Republicans hope to make gains in the state Senate and Assembly on Christie’s coattails.
Campaign money also figures into this. With six candidates from both parties seeking to fill Lautenberg’s seat, more money will flow into their campaigns and away from Christie’s challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono.
The local fallout
For Hudson County, this could have a serious financial effect on the mayoral campaign in Hoboken, where Assemblyman Ruben Ramos hopes to unseat Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Who will want to invest in a Ramos campaign – seen as an uphill struggle – when other more winnable races demand money, too?
Hoboken may become the latest battleground for county political bosses who must choose which candidate to line up behind. State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack apparently will be supporting Ramos. Some claim his arch-rival, State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, was on the fence until Stack and his Assembly running mate Carmelo Garcia endorsed Christie in the governor’s race. This may have pushed Sacco into backing Zimmer, who has not endorsed Christie.
Garcia is rumored to have given Christie his endorsement in exchange for the governor naming a Garcia associate to the Hoboken Housing Authority.
Prior to this, Sacco and Stack were being encouraged by people in their respective camps to support Ramos to help check the growing influence of Fulop, who is rumored to be supporting Zimmer.
A bad sign for Ramos came with the reorganization of the Hoboken Democratic Organization in which, as part of a countywide peace deal, all committee members ran unopposed for their seats. Jamie Cryan was reappointed as chairman, but Zimmer replaced Ramos as honorary chair. The Hoboken Democratic Party also voted to endorse Barbara Buono for governor.
Hudson County may end up a loser by supporting Newark Mayor Cory Booker as the Democratic candidate in the special election to replace Lautenberg. With Democrats Rep. Rush Holt, Rep. Frank Pallone, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver also running in the primary, Booker may not be the sure bet many saw him as earlier, although an early poll shows him far ahead of the others.
As part of the peace deal with fellow Democrats, Stack is reportedly expected to name the next Hudson County prosecutor – who will get the blessing of Christie. Reports suggest the short list includes an attorney currently serving on the Union City Housing Authority, with ties to North Bergen and West New York, or someone from the Union City Board of Education.
O’Donnell makes peace in fight for state Democratic Chair
The battle for the state Democratic chairmanship was narrowly averted this week when Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, Buono’s choice, made peace with state Sen. Ray Lesniak, who challenged him. Both agreed to withdraw their nomination in favor of John Currie of Passaic County.
Normally, the party honors the wishes of its gubernatorial candidate, but this may be mixed with local disputes. O’Donnell, along with Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith as chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, backed Healy over Fulop. Since Lesniak is aligned with Fulop, the challenge for the state chairmanship was seen by some as payback. Smith was also dumped as chairman of the HCDO this week as well.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.