The Coach House has become a site for several recent political meetings, and that's why Cunningham was there. To Cunningham's credit, she managed to spot a member of the Hudson Reporter staff shortly after she arrived. Last year, a peace conference between Union City Mayor Brian Stack and West New York Mayor Sal Vega was reported in full, partly because Stack and Rep. Albio Sires failed to notice the reporter sitting at the next table.
A few weeks later, a North Hudson freeholder also held a meeting in The Coach House, noticing the reporter only when leaving.
Cunningham's meeting last week was something of a field trip. She was meeting with several key Stack political contributors in what many see as the first volley in her run for mayor of Jersey City.
This could spell trouble for incumbent Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, despite his huge political war chest. Many of his key people are former members of the late Glenn Cunningham's administration and would likely shift to Sandra if she looked like a viable candidate.
While Cunningham has a huge block of African-American votes she can call upon, victory next year will depend on a good racial and ethnic mix among her council choices.
Cunningham appears to have the backing of state Senator Ray Lesniak of Union, one of the state's most powerful political bosses.
Reports suggest Cunningham is looking to bring on Viola Richardson as a council candidate in Ward F and Karen DeSoto in Ward A, solidifying an already strong base in the southern and western portions of Jersey City.
Cunningham may be seeking to enlist Noemi Velazquez, Melissa Holloway, and perhaps even Joe Cassidy as at-large candidates. Those close to Cassidy doubt if he will join the ticket, though they suggest he might seek to run for mayor.
Cunningham's move to meet with Stack people may be an effort to derail the mayoral aspirations of Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, who has said he is running. While rumors claim Smith has been seeking Stack support as well, Smith refuted these rumors, saying he has not met with Stack.
Jersey City mayoral will see a lot of candidates
If Cunningham is entering the race, it may well be a very crowded field since Smith has indicated he will be running. So is former Assemblyman Louis Manzo. Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop is frequently mentioned. Also mentioned is former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler.
Healy's ticket could include Phil Kenny in Ward B, Mike Ryan in Ward E, incumbent Councilman Bill Gaughan in Ward D, incumbent Councilman Steve Lipski (or possibly Tom Murphy) in Ward C, incumbent Councilman Peter Brennan for council-at-large, and Viola Richardson for at-large.
Secaucus ruling could affect many others
Fulop, of course, is riding the back of two referenda he proposed in Jersey City that would limit campaign contributions to candidates and outlaw dual job holding for city political figures who also hold county jobs. While the state needs to further expand its dual-job holding regulations that currently limit all public officials to one pension rather than a pension for each job they hold, Fulop's efforts may have been supported by a recent ruling by the state Attorney General's office saying that Secaucus Councilman Michael Gonnelli should not simultaneously be the town's volunteer deputy fire chief and a councilman. The ruling noted that as councilman, Gonnelli could be voting on issues affecting the fire department.
The law may have an impact on Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, since Turner holds the positions of mayor of Weehawken, chairman of the board for the North Hudson Regional Fire Department, and a commissioner on the state's Local Finance Board.
Everybody's lining up behind a U.S. Senate candidate
Local races are getting complicated because of the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate, as Rep. Rob Andrews tries to unseat incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg. The primary will be held in June.
Andrews, in the company of state Assemblyman and Bayonne Councilman Anthony Chiappone, took a tour of Bayonne recently and was spotted at the Shop Rite on Avenue C.
Former Council member Mary Jane Desmond is seeking to unseat incumbent Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico in the June primary, and had hoped to align herself with Andrews to accomplish this.
Meanwhile, Sean Connors - who this column mistakenly printed as backing incumbent Freeholder Eliu Rivera when Connors is opposing him - is expected to run a tough race for one of the Jersey City Freeholder seats in the June primary.
Political consultants Tom Bartoli and former Mayor Gerry McCann are bumping heads, since Bartoli is backing Rivera and McCann, Connors.
Bartoli, however, said McCann will do for Connors what McCann did for former Hoboken Councilman Chris Campos and former Jersey City mayoral candidate Manzo: "McCann will help Connors lose," Bartoli said.
Incumbent Freeholder Bill O'Dea is expected to kick off his re-election bid with a fundraising open house on April 29, despite the fact that he is running unopposed. O'Dea is making sure that he aligns himself with the right people by honoring County Executive Tom DeGise, Jersey City Councilman Mariano Vega, former council candidate Greg Racelis, police Captain Mark Hussey of the West District, Deputy Fire Chief George Johns, and Pastor Thomas Shield of Faith Ministry. As if that wasn't enough, he is also paying tribute to senior citizen Joe Tecchio, Sister Georgette Gaviolli of O'Dea's church, and Marie Mayo, director of Jersey City's Department of Public Housing, Thomas McCann, parks director for Hudson County's Parks Department, and others.
Peace in some areas anyway
Meanwhile, West New York Mayor Sal Vega seems to be back in the saddle after being one of the centerpieces of last year's Democratic Civil War.
A fundraiser held in Garfield brought out more than 1,200 people, but more importantly, it brought together some key political figures such as U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires.
Vega has even made peace with West New York Commissioner Gerry Lange, voiding Lange's once-threatened recall election of Vega.
As if this wasn't enough, a Meadowlands fundraiser for Menendez brought together an even more curious collection of political opposites, including Menendez's one-time rival, former Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia.
While Jersey City Mayor Healy attended the Menendez event, Union City Mayor Stack did not.
Sires was unable to attend, but he did send his chief of staff, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.
Correction in Hoboken
Last week, this column mistakenly claimed Councilman Peter Cammarano was aligned with Councilwoman Dawn Zimmer. This should have been Councilman Peter Cunningham.