Heinrich Heine, a German journalist and poet, once advised, “One should forgive one’s enemies, but not before they are hanged.”
This is likely to be a philosophy that supporters of defeated Hoboken mayoral candidate Ruben Ramos Jr. will adopt regarding the followers of Frank Raia, Tim Occhipinti, and Jamie Cryan, after it became clear that the split in opposition to Mayor Dawn Zimmer cost the anti-Zimmer forces one or two City Council seats.
If the same number of votes were cast in a two-way election, the fractured anti-vote might even have toppled Zimmer, whose vote came just shy of 6,000, while the combined Ramos/Occhipinti vote was above 6,000.
Unlike the 2009 election where Zimmer and her council candidates received roughly the same number of votes, Zimmer received 1,300 votes more than David Mello, her leading council candidate, with running mates James Doyle and Ravi Bhalla not far behind. Bhalla’s finishing a few hundred votes behind Doyle suggests that the intense negative campaign against him may have had an impact.
But there was also a big gap between Ramos and his council candidates. Ramos received more than 4,400 votes while Laura Miani, Eduardo Gonzalez, and Joseph Mindak all finished with around 2,800 each.
Tim Occhipinti, with about 2,225 votes, actually did worse than his council candidates, Frank Raia and Peter Biancamano, with only political novice Britney Montgomery-Cook finishing with fewer votes on his ticket. Patricia Waiters, an independent, finished with around 645.
Occhipinti, backed by Raia and Councilwoman Beth Mason’s wealthy coffers, was not able to secure more than a third place finish, while the fiscally-impoverished Ramos campaign made up for lack of money with a strong get out the vote effort on Election Day.
Ramos needed the money the other camp squandered, and it was not to be. Most see the Occhipinti campaign as a series of political blunders, including a negative letter against Eli Manning’s support for Zimmer and a confusing television commercial that focused entirely on attacking Ramos without bothering to promote Occhipinti.
The Occhipinti campaign tried to shake loose voters from Bhalla with a negative ad campaign, but that may actually have energized Bhalla’s base to come out to vote. Some Ramos supporters made an even bigger blunder when they tried to prove that 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino (who was not running for reelection in this election) was not living in the 6th Ward. Temporarily displaced as a result of Hurricane Sandy and upgrading her 6th Ward residence, Giattino became a victim in the eyes of Zimmer supporters of an unfair political attack.
While the numbers suggest that a combined effort by Ramos and Occhipinti might have won, the rancor between the two groups may result in a spring cleaning by the Ramos camp and even a possible recall movement against Occhipinti, who still retains his 4th Ward council seat, as well as significant opposition to Mason’s reelection to the council in 2015. The recall, if it happens, could have Ramos replace Occhipinti on the council, setting the stage for Ramos’ possible run for mayor again in 2017 – which some believe Ramos would win. Also in danger will likely be Jamie Cryan as chairman of the Hoboken Democratic committee.
More importantly, Zimmer’s overwhelming victory in the council elections gives her the deciding vote on the council and the ability to fill key board posts with her people, something that was stalled by a divided council over the past year.
This will also mean a revamping of the Hoboken Housing Authority and the possible removal of Carmelo Garcia as its director. Since Garcia just won a seat for state Assembly along with Raj Mukherji on a ticket let by state Sen. Brian Stack in the 33rd District, the directorship will likely face legal challenges when the Zimmer Administration seeks a clearer ruling on whether Garcia can be a federal employee at the same time as he is a state legislator – a possible violation of the federal Hatch Act.
The Zimmer victory also translated to the Board of Education, where the ticket she backed also won three seats, giving the Zimmer administration nearly total control of the city. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop also saw a school board ticket he backed win three out of four seats, giving him control of that board as well.
Around the county
While Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Barbara Buono squeaked out a victory in Hudson County, Gov. Christopher Christie succeeded in stealing enough Democratic votes in Hudson to shine on a national stage three years from now, when he might well become a presidential contender.
In the 31st District, Democratic State Sen. Sandra Cunningham easily beat Republican Maria Karczewski by nearly a three-to-one margin. Democratic Assemblymen Jason O’Donnell and Charles Mainor beat their Republican challengers Gerald Pizzillo and Juanita Lopez. The big question is whether Karczewski will join any of the municipal tickets as a council candidate for the May elections in Bayonne.
In the 32nd district, Democratic State Senator Nicholas Sacco fended off a challenge by Republican Paul Castelli. Democratic Assembly members Vincent Prieto and Angelica Jimenez beat Republicans Maria Malavasi-Quartello and Lee Marie Gomez. This sets the stage for Prieto to become the next speaker of the state Assembly.
In the 33rd District, Republican James Sanford made a good showing in the state Senate race against Stack despite the fact that Stack supported Christie. Stack-backed Commissioner candidate Celin Valdivia beat two challengers in a special election in Union City.
With more than 53,000 votes countywide, Democratic Sheriff Frank Schillari defeated four challengers.
West New York voters approved a ballot question that now allows voters to elect Board of Education members. While opponents of Mayor Felix Roque see this as a political victory, Roque apparently did openly oppose the measure. Behind the scenes, Roque has apparently given the blessing for Commissioner FiorD’Aliza Frias to run against Jose Munoz for freeholder in the 2014 primary.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.