"I couldn't stop wondering about why people would think I was riding around like that," Campos said. "I'm not saying there is anything wrong in owning a BMW. If you can afford it, you should be able to drive whatever car you like. But rumors like that don't just start out of nowhere, so I started asking around."
Campos soon discovered that there was indeed a BMW being driven around in his section of town, and by a Latino who even looked a little like Campos.
"He's a little taller than I am," Campos said, describing the man he later approached and talked to. "His face even looks a little like mine."
How such a report could have circulated puzzled Campos greatly - although his running for re-election to the Town Council made it easy to understand why his enemies would spread such a tale.
Campos has been actively seeking votes from the poorer sections of town, and in a campaign involving images, reports of his riding "high on the hog" in a BMW would not have looked good.
After sources spurred an item in this column about it, Campos said, "Everybody wanted to go for a ride in my new BMW. They wouldn't believe me when I said I didn't have one, that my car was a Honda."
This BMW situation is part of the battle of images Campos and his challenger, Councilman Tony Soares, are waging.
Soares has been seeking to make Campos' new county job with the Transportation Management Authority an issue. The car story, if it had been true, might have gone along with Campos' new job.
Campos noted that if anyone is driving a BMW, it is Soares.
Soares, with his usual quick wit, replied, "Of course I do. I earned it - in the private sector."
In rising to Soares' challenge, Campos defended his county job, saying that his experience in state transportation makes him a good candidate for the planning of county transportation options.
"Hoboken is a hub of transportation, and we should have someone in the planning stages," he said. "Since I have that experience, it only makes sense. Has there been a culture of patronage in Hudson County? Maybe. But I'm 26 years old, and I was recruited for this job by a county executive I voted for and respect, and I'm trying to make certain that Hoboken and Hudson County get the transportation funding they deserve."
Loss of a Latino in the Assembly?
State Sen. Bernard Kenny - who is also chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization - confirmed that his ticket in 33rd District would include Union City Mayor Brian Stack (who is also a freeholder) as one of the candidates for state Assembly in the June primary, dumping incumbent Rafael Fraguela.
Stack has criticized Fraguela's record of late (see www.unioncityreporter.com for more details).
If elected to the Assembly, Stack will relinquish his seat as freeholder. Reports are that his seat will be issued to Stack protégé Christopher Irzarry, currently a commissioner in Union City.
The ticket - to be announced on Monday morning - will include Kenny, Stack, and Albio Sires.
"Brian has a tremendous ability, and he is a very aggressive advocate for the people in Union City in the state, through me and my office," Kenny said. "Party leaders are very impressed with him. I don't know what Rafael will do. I've known him for 16 years and we've had a good relationship. But sometimes circumstances dictate a change. This will be a strong ticket."
Jose Arango, chairman of the Hudson County Republican Organization, has expressed alarm at the loss of a Latino legislator, saying that Union City and the 33rd District are predominantly Latino and should not lose Fraguela's voice in the Assembly.
"Party distinctions are important," Arango said. "But so is the need to keep someone in office that is in touch with our people."
Arango said the Republican slate will likely try to make up for this by selecting candidates that will reflect the community.
Kenny most trustworthy politician
Sen. Kenny, meanwhile, had won the remarkable distinction of being one of the state's most trustworthy politicians in a recent report by New Jersey Monthly magazine.
"I don't know why I received this particular honor," Kenny said. "But I know I've always treated people with respect, whether that is peers or people I work with. I understand that I am going to be working with them tomorrow and the next day, so that I think in terms of relationships rather than transactions."
Kenny said this extended to his opposition as well. Although a staunch critic of Gov. Christine Whitman's policies, he maintained a respectful relationship with her. As for New Jersey Monthly's remarks, Kenny said, "If I had to write something about myself, I couldn't have written anything better than that."