West New York Mayor Albio Sires is expected to run in the June Democratic primary for the privilege to run for the House of Representatives seat vacated by Menendez, and supposedly, Freeholder Sal Vega is to move up to become West New York mayor and assemblyman, vacating his post on the freeholder board.
But some sources suggest that Vega may opt to hold onto his longtime position as freeholder chairman, upsetting the plans of some freeholders who saw his promotion as a golden opportunity to take control the board. Those closest to Vega say he may become mayor of West New York and let the Assembly seat go to some other West New York or Union City candidate whom he could support.
This comes on the heels of an attempted coup prior to the freeholder reorganization meeting in early January, when Freeholders Bill O'Dea and Jeff Dublin attempted to get control of the vice chairmanship by claiming to have enough votes on the freeholder board already.
A campaign of phone calls to the mayors of the 12 municipalities apparently sought to get enough freeholder votes to swing the vice chairmanship away from Freeholder Thomas Liggio to Dublin, by claiming the mayors really wanted their freeholder on the winning side.
Insiders claim that this campaign did generate a number of concerned calls back to Freeholder Chairman Vega, who assured each that he had already promised to support North Bergen-Secaucus Freeholder Thomas Liggio for vice chair, and had received the promises of enough freeholders to make the appointment.
Dublin had to settle for pro temp, the third ranking position instead.
Menendez for President?
In Jersey City, Menendez's political enemies are upset by their change of fortune. With state Senator Rob Andrews dropping out of the upcoming June Democratic primary, Menendez appears to have an easy road until he faces off against the Republican candidate in November - likely to be state Senator Tom Kean Jr., who already has an 11-point lead in the polls.
North Bergen and Union City people have already met with the idea of forming a group called Democrats for Kean. Yet even people supporting Menendez's promotion to the U.S. Senate have agreed to back his new campaign with the hopes that once he becomes the U.S. senator, he will relinquish control of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
But critics, some who have an unofficial designation of DAM (Democrats against Menendez), point out that the Republicans once hoped they could do the same for Teddy Roosevelt at the beginning of the 20th century. Roosevelt never let go of his power over the party even when elected to the presidency.
Can you say President Menendez?
Vacancy in the House?One of the curiously negative impacts of Menendez's appointment to the U.S. Senate is the fact that this will leave the 13th Congressional District without a representative.
Unlike the U.S. Senate, in which a replacement is named by the sitting governor, New Jersey has no provision for naming an immediate replacement for Menendez. So the seat will stay vacant until a special election determines who will take Menendez's seat. This will likely be in November when other House of Representative seats are also contested. The one difference, whoever wins - Sires, his Democratic challenger, Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas, or a Republican candidate - takes the seat immediately upon being elected, while the other winning candidates would have to wait until the following January.
In a blow against Vas, Sires received the endorsement of Linden Mayor John Gregorio.
North Hudson up for grabs
So if Vega doesn't run for the state Assembly to replace Sires, who does?
Best guess would be Freeholder Tilo Rivas from Union City.
While the 2005 Democratic primary centered on the conflict for control in the 31st District Assembly races, Sires' old 33rd District will be much more interesting in the future.
Also in that district, will Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop run for Assembly?
And in the state Senate, will Union City Mayor Brian Stack take a shot at unseating reigning state Sen. Bernard Kenny?
The possible Sires election to the House of Representatives also would raise serious questions about what happens in Weehawken. While Mayor Richard Turner has humorously teased this column about predicting his leaving Weehawken, many North Hudson political observers say he will be faced with some serious choices in the near future.
If Vega takes over as mayor, Turner's role as West New York City administrator is likely to come to an end. If so, he could have the opportunity to join Sires' Washington, D.C. staff as chief of staff or some other position. Although Turner's political team has dominated Weehawken government for years, some claim the organization centered on him, and without him, would cease to exist.
This could be the opportunity that activist Ben Goldman - Turner's longtime rival - would seize to try to become mayor. Goldman has some impressive credentials working in the environmental field for then-President Bill Clinton.
Turner, although not yet announced, will likely seek re-election as mayor in the May 9 municipal election, because he won't know for certain that he has a job opening at the federal level until after the June primary decides between Sires and Vas.
Roberts takes a stand Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts held off a campaign orchestrated by Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell last week, when he refused to back the appointment of Frank Raia to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
While Raia ran against Roberts for mayor last May, most agree the dispute is not about past disputes, but over a wish by Roberts to put his own people in key positions.
Who knows, he may even want to run for mayor again.
Elwell, who is a close friend of Raia, launched a campaign that called in a lot of old debts from a lot of very powerful state politicos in an effort to get Raia reappointed.
Roberts, however, had his own candidate in mind for the post, Councilman Ruben Ramos, and held firm against the barrage of calls.
This could bode ill for Raia, whose position on the Hoboken Board of Education was previously seen as undisputable.
Contact Al Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org