While Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” reflected the coming together of musical giants in the early 1970s, the recent fundraiser for Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner appears to reflect an emerging political reality, as everybody except Bayonne Mark Smith and state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack attended.
Jersey City Mayor-Elect Steven Fulop may have stolen the show as the most recent political superstar in Hudson County. Not far behind him was Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
In the past, Zimmer was something of an outcast. This was not true at this event as she hobnobbed with Turner, Rep. Albio Sires, and most importantly, State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
Most of the political elite – with a handful of exceptions – seem to have become comfortable with Zimmer, even if it is yet too far out from the November election to determine where people will line up for her reelection bid. Zimmer is opposed so far by Assemblyman Ruben Ramos.
Most observers believe Ramos has an uphill but not impossible task of unseating Zimmer, provided he can put together a coalition of those known to oppose Zimmer’s policies.
“It’s an uphill battle,” said one source to Ramos. “Zimmer is popular. But Ramos is a good candidate and a hard worker, and he has support in the community.”
Zimmer apparently isn’t taking anything for granted, and met with some union officials at a breakfast last week, trying to get better acquainted. Zimmer must sell the idea that she is not anti-development to groups whose livelihood hinges on real estate.
Like all elections, the Hoboken race will be shaped by money. Zimmer had the advantage for a moment, but Ramos people appear to be seeking support of key members in the community. If Ramos can bring Councilwoman Beth Mason into his camp, a lot of his funding problems might be solved, as money tends to follow money.
Peter Biancamano, who won his seat to the school board with the help of Carmelo Garcia, is apparently meeting with Ramos and Councilman Michael Russo in hopes to help in the upcoming election. Biancamano already has plans to run against Councilwoman Beth Mason in the 2nd Ward in 2015.
Not so surprising, West New York Mayor Felix Roque appeared at the Turner fundraiser as well. Roque seems determined to heal some of the political wounds he’s made with people like Turner, Albio, and Sacco. And many of Roque’s former enemies appear willing to accept Roque back on some level because they see this as further isolating Stack. If no one can beat Stack, many of his enemies feel content in leaving him contained in Union City.
Some are also accepting Roque for the same reason they are accepting Zimmer, because he is still mayor of a Hudson County town with whom they may have to live with for the next few years.
Some actually believe that Roque will escape his current legal woes with federal authorities over accusations of conspiring to hack into the website of political enemies.
As much panic as there may be inside West New York Town Hall, Roque’s core people are extremely loyal, and many of those who jumped ship presuming his guilt will likely jump back if he is exonerated. He would even likely win the proposed recall election, and would become much more powerful as a mayor having gone through a test of fire unscathed.
Some political observers claim the charges against Roque are far less serious than we in the media like to make out, and that to most people what Roque is being accused of amounts to “a practical joke” or “a political dirty trick” and not political corruption.
“This isn’t Bid Rig II,” said one observer, referring to the 2009 federal sting operation that brought down a number of political people in Hudson County.
These observers believe that if Roque wins his trial, he will like win reelection in 2015, and will become a dominant political force in Hudson County.
But some gambling types believe the odds are still against Roque. Only time will tell.
Sacco on the hot seat?
Gov. Christopher Christie had stern words from the man he called “Political Boss Sacco,” as a result of an inquiry in North Bergen which showed some questionable practices involving legal and other services.
Christie has been critical of Sacco since becoming governor, making Sacco the poster child for anti-multiple job holder campaign. Sacco currently has three high paying public jobs, and many of his key people have several taxpayer jobs as well. One of his close associates apparently has fallen under scrutiny not only for jobs with the county, but also work on behalf of a private legal firm, as well as fundraising activities.
This seems to be one of the problems many of local officials are facing with what is being called the Birdsall Scandal.
It seems that if you didn’t get a contribution from Birdsall Engineering over the last 10 years, you aren’t anybody important in politics.
For more than a decade, a request to Birdsall to buy tickets for a fundraiser usually resulted in a check in the mail – almost like manna from Heaven. Even politicians that have voted against approving contacts for Birdsall contracts receive hefty donations.
Bouncing back from his third place finish in the Jersey City mayoral race, Jerry Walker is expanding Team Walker – his charitable education and sports program – in both Jersey City and Bayonne. Could this indicate a future run for state Assembly? He will also begin airing a cable TV show in both towns where he will interview various personalities and discuss local issues. His not for profit in June raised more than $25,000.