In 1999, Garcia, a young assemblyman, could do no wrong. After mending political fences with Brian Stack, a man who came within 800 votes of unseating him as mayor of Union City, Garcia seemed to be on the fast track to political success. But as 1999 came to an end, Garcia's political fortunes changed. Garcia's enemies claim he began to make moves inside and outside Union City that alienated people who had offered him their political support. Rumors claimed Garcia committed the ultimate political sin by striving to unseat Rep. Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.) - something Garcia still denies.
After the city introduced its budget 10 months late and struggled with financial problems, Stack and others broke ties with Garcia. During the summer, Stack announced his plans for a recall at a meeting of Union City First, the political organization Stack formed after dissolving Garcia's Union City Democratic Organization.
In October, while Garcia's detractors were in the middle of collecting signatures for the recall election, Garcia resigned from office. At the Board of Commissioners meeting that night, Brian Stack was appointed commissioner of public safety and then mayor of Union City.
Garcia also had also come under the scrutiny of the state the attorney general's office, which issued subpoenas for the financial records to the Union City Democratic Organization and the Union City Board of Education. Later, the city's Urban Enterprise Zone was issued subpoenas from the Corruption Unit of the State Attorney General's Office. Computers from the UCDO headquarters were rumored to have been confiscated by the state, and various Board of Education officials were asked to testify before a grand jury in December.
By year's end - while he was still struggling to maintain his seat on the state assembly - Garcia was hit with yet more bad news as his former legislative aide and UCDO executive director, Deborah Reed, filed sexual harassment charges against him. Garcia's attorney has charged that the suit is politically motivated.
Hoboken: battling cancer and potential opponents
Nearly everything turned upside down this year in Hoboken's oft-shrill political theater when Mayor Anthony Russo underwent emergency surgery in March to have a tumor removed from his brain. The mayor is the focal point around which much of the town's politics revolves. City Hall gadflies gossiped about what might happen if the mayor stepped down from the post he has held since 1993. But Russo fought the cancer as strongly as he had fought during his political career, and after treatment, overcame it.
Meanwhile, his allies on the council jousted with his political foes on a range of issues including rent control reforms and adjustments to longevity pay, a bonus system that rewards longtime public service employees. City Councilman Dave Roberts, a likely mayoral candidate, along with his allies, did their best to expose alleged weaknesses in the administration's "vision" for the future of Hoboken.
Now, Russo and his opponents are discussing tickets for the city's May mayoral elections. Sources believe Russo will run again. His likely opponents, Roberts and former school board president Michael Lenz, claim that the city has been overdeveloped and that it's time for a change.
Meanwhile, Michele Russo, the mayor's wife, has emerged as a powerful political force in her own right. In April, she won a seat on the school board, adding that volunteer civic duty to a resume that already includes a seat on the parking authority board.
Local races in Secaucus
In Secaucus, the year 2000 was a test of a new political coalition between former Independent candidate Dennis Elwell and the Democratic Party. In 1999, Elwell unseated incumbent Mayor Anthony Just in the primary to become the Democratic candidate. This was the result of an agreement forged between Elwell and his long-time political revival, Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto. Early in the year, political observers predicted a falling out between these two men, especially over the question of who would take Elwell's council seat in the 2nd Ward. To become mayor, Elwell had to give up his council seat. Many believed Impreveduto would ask Elwell to give that seat to Democrat James Clancy, a long-time Impreveduto supporter. Elwell instead named his own long-time political ally, Robert Kickey. In November, Kickey won a two-year term of his own, running as a Democrat in a Democratic sweep of the council.
Jersey City prepares for the silly season
Strange things happen in the months leading up to elections. It's no different in Jersey City, where a mayor will likely leave and a new one will be chosen in May of 2001. Every issue, from dog excrement to tax money, becomes a politically charged topic.
Welcome to the Silly Season.
For the uninitiated, it's a season when an offhand comment, a gesture, an eye roll, all have political implications. And the city is right in the middle of it.
"If you blow your nose," said Council President Tom DeGise, a mayoral candidate, recently, "people will be wondering why."
A raft-load of announced candidates is seeking the City Hall corner office. Along with DeGise, Councilwoman Melissa Holloway and former council president and former freeholder Glenn Cunningham have made their intentions clear. Still mulling a run are Public Works Director Kevin Sluka, councilmen Robert Cavanaugh and Mariano Vega, former mayor Gerald McCann, and freeholder Bill O'Dea.
The race for mayor is being precipitated by the likely departure of eight-year incumbent Bret Schundler, who plans to run for governor.
Schundler, a Republican, may have a tough road to travel.
He's got support from multi-millionaire Steve Forbes and has been raising money vigorously, but a recent Qunnipiac College poll showed Schundler with little name-recognition around the state. Only 79 percent of respondents said they knew enough about the one-time bond trader to speak about him. Still, his main rival for the Republican slot, Senate president Donald T. DiFrancesco, got only 73 percent when those polled were asked the same question. And DiFrancesco may get more name recognition if Gov. Christie Whitman moves to Washington, D.C. to work in the Bush administration and DiFrancesco takes over the remainder of her term. Meanwhile, failed senate candidate Bob Franks has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but has not decided on a run.
In Guttenberg, two council seats were up for grabs and went unopposed to incumbents Edward Huebsch and Carlos Garcia.
There were no municipal elections in North Bergen, Weehawken, and West New York.
County, state and federal
Hudson County Democrats came out in full force for presidential candidate Al Gore (who was ultimately unsuccessful) and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Corzine (successful) in 2000. Each candidate received more than 70 percent of the vote in Hudson County. The Hudson County Democratic Party made its endorsement for Corzine a year earlier, despite efforts by former Democratic Gov. Jim Florio to get the nod. Democrats running for the House of Representatives won easily: Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.), Rep. Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist) and Rep. Donald Payne (D-10th Dist.). Menendez survived a challenge from Republican candidate Theresa DeLeon of Jersey City. DeLeon had won the Republican primary after beating out North Bergen's Hal Turner.