Early in 2013 (although planned out in late 2012), the brain trust behind Ruben Ramos Jr.’s campaign for mayor was based on the Field of Dreams theory: If he built a ticket, anybody who dislikes Dawn Zimmer would back him.
This group of clear thinkers thought that anti-Zimmer forces did not have a choice and would not risk allowing Zimmer to be reelected by backing someone other than Ramos.
Last week, time proved that brain trust wrong.
So wrong, in fact, some believe the backlash against a year of Ramos supporters’ arm-twisting may force his supporters to back newly-declared mayoral hopeful Tim Occhipinti instead.
While some believe Occhipinti will split the anti-Zimmer vote and allow Zimmer an easier win in November, others fed up with some of the things done in Ramos’ name may swing to the Occhipinti ticket in a kind of reverse Field of Dreams – meaning they won’t want to vote for Zimmer or Ramos, and see Occhipinti as an alternative.
Certainly his ticket that includes Frank Raia, Peter Biancamano, and Britney Montgomery Cook will have a lot of funding with the combined efforts of Raia and Councilwoman Beth Mason behind it.
The real objective of this third ticket maybe simply to get someone – possibly more – elected to the City Council, and thus serve as the deciding votes on a council currently split four to four.
Even with the most recent independent poll done by Vision Media, which shows Zimmer leading Ramos in a head-to-head contest 44 percent to 29, the council is up for grabs.
Ramos’ ticket, which includes Joe Mindak, Eduardo Gonzalez, and Laura Miani, is seen as relatively weak – one of the reasons Raia and others spit from Ramos.
Zimmer’s ticket includes Council President Ravi Bhalla, Councilman David Mello, and the once appointed to the council, but never seated, James Doyle. Bhalla’s ambition for higher office has put him at odds even with people in the Zimmer camp, who fear he might leap at the next opportunity to run for another seat and leave Zimmer in the lurch. Mello, sits on several boards, may be vulnerable to political attack partly because some of his comments on one board seem to contradict things he says on another board.
The Raia ticket could steal one or more seats, and if so, would have significant influence over the city’s agenda over the next two years – although Raia may have more in common with Zimmer these days than with those who support Ramos.
Some believe Zimmer might be comfortable with Raia on the council.
But Occhipinti will serve as a lightning rod for supporters of both Ramos and Zimmer and will likely provide some lively entertainment until election day.
A shift of voters from Ramos to Occhipinti, however, could make this a closer race that most currently believe.
Look for the Ramos camp to challenge the petition signatures in hopes of derailing the third ticket at the last minute.
Fulop’s council shows some spine
The problem when you run with candidates who can think for themselves is that when you become mayor, the way Steve Fulop has, some of them may actually want to do their own thinking.
Although somewhat a pain in the backside for a mayor who has a well-established plan of action, a thoughtful council may give this administration significantly longer life than one made up of rubber stamps, and could well fine tune Fulop’s vision for the future.
For the most part, Fulop’s train is moving ahead, despite a few questions by council members, and he seems poised to build on the success of his election as he rebuilds city government.
Although many talk about Fulop’s political influence beyond the borders of Jersey City, especially in next year’s municipal elections in Bayonne, more savvy political observers believe that he has to get his own house in order before considering taking on countywide battles.
Yet, it is likely that Fulop is eyeing county government next – and will have a huge say about who sits in the four Jersey City seats in the 2014 election. It is expected that Fulop will back Freeholder Bill O’Dea’s bid for county executive, in what will largely resemble Fulop’s municipal battle for mayor and council in Jersey City. Many of Hudson County’s old guard who support Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise were those who supported Jeramiah Healy, the man Fulop defeated for mayor.
Smith’s chances have improved
In Bayonne, where Fulop is rumored to be seeking to unseat Mayor Mark Smith, opposition is growing. There are already two declared opponents to Smith, but not yet a full alternative ticket.
Smith has told supporters that he will seek reelection to his second full term. Things are looking better for him politically, partly because of a recent move by Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build a world class cruise port facility on the former Military Ocean Terminal. This will like rekindle redevelopment of residential and commercial projects that sputtered out after the city sold a portion of the MOTBY to the Port Authority three years ago. Many believe that the facility would become a cargo container port.
The return to a higher use development will give Smith a powerful platform to run for reelection on.
Fulop, however, appears also to be eyeing the Assembly seat held by Jason O’Donnell – which will not be up again for reelection until 2015.
“I’m not worried about it,” O’Donnell said. “Two years in a lifetime in politics. Besides, I serve in the Assembly to serve the public. If I’m no longer an assemblyman, I’ll still be serving the public in some other capacity.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.