Hoboken's upcoming 4th Ward City Council election between Christopher Campos and Dawn Zimmer is no exception.
The election is actually a do-over of the June runoff election that was held between the two candidates. In that race, political newcomer Dawn Zimmer narrowly ousted Campos from his seat. However, the hard-fought race resulted in both candidates pointing fingers at each other's campaign methods. After legal wrangling, they agreed to another election this coming November.
While Zimmer was on time with her state ELEC - Election Law Enforcement Commission - reports, which show where her money was coming from, Campos was repeatedly late with his. The reports are due at various intervals before and after an election.
Some in the community have alleged that Campos was attempting to conceal who was contributing to his campaign.
Campos, who is a lawyer, has given a variety of reasons why his forms were late over the last few months, including mistakes by campaign members. With the most recent set of reports, which were due in late June but just got turned in two weeks ago, Campos said that the reason for his lateness in filing was that "[I was] researching all of the information that my treasurer needed."
Now that the reports are in from both candidates, a few interesting donations and payments have come to light - including the politicians who supported each candidate, the developers who supported Campos, and a $2,500 payment from the Zimmer campaign to a local blogger for private work (see cover sidebar).
$230,000 for a council seat
According to the ELEC reports from the two candidates, approximately $230,000 in total was raised with Zimmer raising about over $117,000 and Campos raising over $113,000 for both the May 8 election and June 12 runoff.
The Fourth Ward is always a politically important part of town. It contains both the city's 1,373 units of federally-subsidized low-income housing, as well as many new luxury developments.
This recent election brought out members of both sectors of the community to take sides over the hotly-contested seat.
Hoboken's City Council contains nine seats, six of which are ward seats and three at-large. The council's decisions affect hundreds of millions of dollars in spending in town, as the council can designate specific developers for large redevelopment areas in town, and decide where new parks should go.
The new election is to be held Tuesday, Nov. 6, on the same ballot with the upcoming state legislative races.
Over $60K from politicians
According to Campos' forms for both the runoff and the original election, which were finally filed on Oct. 2, Campos raised approximately $113,000 for the May and June races.
Well over $60,000 came from politicians, such as Rep. Albio Sires, who donated $2,600; Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who donated $2,000; and Assemblyman/Union City Mayor Brian Stack, who donated $19,000. Stack is politically important in the county, having formed one of the county's two warring Democratic factions.
Stack's group, "Democrats for Hudson County," has been at war with the longstanding Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
Zimmer received just over $9,000 from politicians over the course of both elections. This included a total of $4,000 from Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and $2,000 from Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy, as well as contributions from some former Hoboken council members, such as Anthony Soares, who donated $2,500, and Carol Marsh, who gave $750. Healy is the present chairman of the HCDO, and DeGise is allied with them as well.
Developers for Campos
Of course, politicians aren't the only ones who have an interest in who is elected to local office.
Another powerful force in any community is local businesses, in particular developers.
Campos received over $20,000 from individuals in real estate or development, whereas Zimmer's forms show that she received not a single dollar from such interests.
Contributors to Campos' campaign included local Developer Lawrence Bijou, who donated $1,200, and Presidents of Applied Development Companies Michael Barry and David Barry, who each donated $2,300.
Zimmer gets $40,000 from...herself
Although Zimmer didn't get a lot of money from politicians or developers, she did manage to raise a significant amount from individual supporters. She also received a lot from herself and her family.
Campos, who is a product of the federally-subsidized Hoboken Housing Authority, did not receive any funding from family or contribute any of his own money to the campaign.
Of the over $117,000 Zimmer used for her campaign, $15,000 was provided by relatives, while a whopping $40,000 came directly from the candidate herself.
Who was paid
Campos spent more than $50,000 for campaign workers for the elections. Zimmer spent approximately $24,000. Of the hundred of campaign workers employed by both candidates, Campos had over 300 from the 4th Ward, while Zimmer had approximately 220.
However, a noticeable amount of Zimmer's workers were from other parts of New Jersey and as far away as Connecticut.
Another area where the two candidates differed is in the amount of money invested in professional political consulting.
Zimmer spent over $20,000 on the hiring of political consultants for her two campaigns, turning to Visibility Consulting Services out of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Rob Horowitz Associates out of Providence, R.I., for help in her campaign, as well as Campaign consultant Michael Oliva, a New Yorker who also assisted 2nd Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth Mason and 6th Ward Councilman Angelo Giacchi with their campaigns.
Campos said that for his campaign strategy, he received guidance from County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons and Councilman-At-Large Peter Cammarano.
In addition to the usual printing of pamphlets and t-shirts to be worn and distributed by the many campaign workers that line the streets before and during election day, both Campos and Zimmer also turned to the local press to reach out to the voting public.
Zimmer spent at least $3,766 in advertisements in this newspaper, while Campos spent $3,655.
Last week, when answering questions about their ELEC reports, both sides brought up problems with the other sides' campaign methods and ELEC filing methods.
Zimmer complained that Campos had his treasurer sign his name to his ELEC reports on two separate occasions. Zimmer characterized the act as "forgery," but Campos downplayed it as a "matter of convenience," saying he had the right to authorize anyone to sign his name to the documents in question.
Similarly, Campos raised concerns over an omission on Zimmer's original ELEC report regarding the purchase of $300 worth of scratch-off lottery tickets distributed with absentee ballot registrations to 4th ward voters, in an effort to encourage them to vote.
Zimmer later included the purchase in an amended report. Campos had described the purchase as a form of "bribery." Zimmer dismissed the incident as an "oversight."
To view the ELEC reports for yourself, log onto http://www.elec.state.nj.us/.
Hoboken web personality paid by Zimmer
In addition to newspaper ads, 4th Ward Council candidate Dawn Zimmer also used the internet as a way to get her word out, employing local web designer Perry Klaussen, who for many in Hoboken is the face of community-based website Hoboken 411.
Zimmer's campaign paid $2,500 to Klaussen to design her campaign website.
Throughout the election season, 411 provided extensive commentary on both candidates, some good, some bad.
However, at some point in the campaign, the site made it known how it felt about the prospect of Campos keeping his council seat.
In a post in May, the site wrote of Campos: "You can read more poignant observations of Mr. Campos' obvious short-comings and retardation in the comments section...If people want this blabbering buffoon who thinks knowing a few multi-syllable words automatically qualifies him as a good leader, then the 4th Ward is in big trouble for sure."
When asked if he believed receiving $2,500 from Zimmer for building her website represented a conflict of interest, Klaussen replied last week, "Absolutely not."
Klaussen added, "I've designed over a dozen websites for various business [and individuals] in town," noting that he also designed the campaign website for 5th Ward Councilman Peter Cunningham, an ally of Zimmer's, as well as the website for the School Board Ticket "KidsFirst," which consisted of the recently elected school board members Carrie Gilliard, Rose Marie Markle, and Tricia Snyder, whose husband Doug was Zimmer's campaign manager.
"I tell all my clients that the fact that I'm doing your site doesn't change what I'm going to report on," he noted. "I am completely independent."
Klaussen declined to officially confirm or deny whether he owns 411, or to what extent he writes the commentary on the site.
Michael Mullins can be reached at email@example.com.