Popular 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason made headlines for the last few years as a citizen who sued Hoboken City Hall several times, fighting with her own money to make government records open and transparent. Then, after she ascended to her council seat two years ago, she seemed destined for the mayor's race.
For the last two years, she consistently voted in line with two other council people also seen as reformers -- Dawn Zimmer and Peter Cunningham -- as well as to members of a long-time political family in town, councilpeople Michael Russo and Theresa Castellano. All five of them often formed a voter bloc against Mayor David Roberts' policies.
However, Zimmer and Mason's supporters, who theoretically should have been allies, started to split last year, unwililng to share the power or the "reformer" base.
Last year, Mason refused to support the "reform" school board ticket that Zimmer supported, instead endorsing one member of the slate and one independent. Ultimately, the ticket lost, something the Zimmer crew blamed Mason's allies for. Several very vocal backers on both sides simply couldn't get along, firing vicious barbs at each other on internet websites.
Ultimately, Zimmer decided at the end of last year to jump into the Hoboken mayor's race as well.
Mason allied herself with Russo and Castellano, which she saw as a way to build a bridge between old and new Hoboken -- and increase her base in different parts of town. But that appeared to alienate some of Mason's supporters, who did not seem to like either the alliance or Mason's council ticket choices. Mason had criticized Zimmer for taking help from the county Democratic organization the year before, but now she herself was getting help from a powerful political organization (the Russo Civic Association). Some wondered if that would make her beholden to them.
Then, there were Mason's recent votes that were questioned by individual members of a new taxpayers' group, Hoboken Revolt.
Prominent members of that group called out Mason for voting to extend an abatement agreement for the moderate income Church Towers building, which Revolt thought needed more research first. In addition, Mason supported a redevelopment project uptown that some other council members felt needed more vetting. And last month, Mason declined to endorse the "Kids First" school board slate, which was popular with many reformers. Mason's silence made some wonder if she was unwilling to ruffle the feathers of her newer allies across town.
The election became nastier and nastier, with Zimmer and Mason's supporters warring against each other more than against Cammarano, who merely had to smile on the sidelines and keep blaming both women for voting against Roberts' budget last year, which he said indirectly caused a state takeover of city finances.
On PolitickerNJ today, they had this to say about Mason's candidacy: "Repeatedly castigated by both the Cammarano and Zimmer camps for abandoning her reformer roots to assemble a slate of old school Hobokonites, Mason argued that she didn’t have to agree with her running mates on every issue in order to feel comfortable running with them.
"But her efforts to forge her 2nd Ward supporters with the remnants of the [former Mayor] Anthony Russo era proved politically hazardous.
"A win by Mason would have substantially augmented the power of 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo – the former mayor’s son -who stayed out of his own run for mayor when his poll numbers didn’t add up and instead backed the councilwoman. While Russo weathers the loss with Mason tonight, the apparent runoff viability of both Raul Morales and Vincent Addeo means the councilman can still claim some measure of competitiveness.
"That won’t help Mason, whose vote in favor of the Church Towers extension, a move that directly benefited Russo and Addeo, who both live in the building, cemented her new look image – in the harshest terms of her critics - as a Russo enabler.
" 'She threw away her base,' concluded Paul Swibinski, Cammarano’s strategist."