Hoboken 6th Ward Council member Jen Giattino made the leap from being a registered Republican to becoming a Democrat last week.
Although hardly an extremist, Giattino came under heavy fire for being a registered Republican during her 2017 mayoral bid, which was more than unfair since the election was nonpartisan. She was continually asked how she voted for president in 2016, and where she stood on national policies being brought forth by GOP President Donald Trump.
So much for the privacy of a voting booth in which each ballot is secret. But private opinions may be a thing of a past if the Democratic legislature approves laws to allow people to take “selfie” photos of themselves in the voting booth. This is a possible method that could be misused for local campaigns to push voters to prove who they voted for.
The one legitimate question raised in the mayoral campaign against Giattino last year was about how Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher (who is also chair of the Hoboken Democrats) could be endorsing Giattino for mayor. Fisher was such a fierce supporter of Giattino, many mistook her for the campaign manager (she actually was a campaign co-chair with Councilman Peter Cunningham).
Republican Karen Nason, a Republican who also ran for mayor last year, was asked to leave a Hoboken Democratic Organization meeting last week by Fisher, a meeting at which Giattino announced her change of registration. Nason was asked to leave more than once, despite the fact that the meeting was conducted at a restaurant open to anyone.
“But you can’t stop me,” Nason said, and plunged back into the tavern after the owner said she could not be kept out.
The change of party theoretically removes the conflict between Giattino and Fisher, although Giattino won’t be able to escape the GOP label any time soon.
Jose Arango, chair of the Hudson County Republicans, called Giattino “a nice person” but not a real Republican.
Truth is, New Jersey’s “real Republicans” generally do not live in Democratic hotbeds like Hudson County, although new demographic changes could alter this in the future.
Historically, New Jersey has always had a strong Republican Party ties, from the end of the American Civil War up to today. Until World War II, Democrats dominated specific counties, with Boss Frank Hague ruling the roost from the mayor’s office in Jersey City. Hudson, Essex, and a few other northern counties tended to be strongly Democratic, while western and southern New Jersey are strongly GOP.
The massive movement of people out of cities after World War II created a pathway of Democratic influence down the middle of the state, roughly following the path of the New Jersey Turnpike. This partly explains why Democrats managed to control the legislature over the last half century with some exceptions, such as the drastic legislative losses in the 1990 election, and Gov. Tom Kean’s influence earlier in the 1980s.
But the tide appears to have turned. Kids and grandkids of families who had moved to the suburbs are coming back to the cities in droves, many coming to gold coasts from Guttenberg to Jersey City. Any many of these kids are coming back not as Democrats, but as modified socially acceptable “real Republicans.” Many of these kids are not traditional Republicans with traditional Republican core values, but are fiscal conservatives and moderates when it comes to social agendas.
Republican core values?
Traditional Republican core values center on the idea that each person is responsible for their own place within society. People should do for themselves and government intervention in private lives should be limited. Government should leave people to keep what they earn as much as possible.
But this has huge implications when it comes to health care, which Republicans believe should be left to a free market, and immigration, which Republican believe should be further restricted. While Republicans believe some immigration is necessary, they also believe legal immigrants who have not received citizenship should not have the same rights accorded to citizens.
Hardcore Republicans do not support gay marriage or abortion. They generally believe in a person’s right to carry a firearms, and tend to oppose welfare. These core values, however, may not reflect the new generation of people moving into Hudson County, but they may well affect the way they vote, and change Hudson County’s mix from strong Democrat to a divided county – similar to divisions in other counties such as Essex.
Hoboken had a relatively large vote for Trump in the 2016 election.
Hoboken an enclave of new Republicanism
“Right now, Hoboken has the strongest GOP base,” Arango said. “Hoboken, along with western Hudson County, Secaucus, and Bayonne have strong Republican populations.”
This erosion of the Democratic base in Hudson County won’t change local elections much, but could influence state and national elections in the future, and may well make elections for freeholder, state senate, state assembly, the House of Representatives, governor, even U.S. Senate more competitive.
Historically, Hudson County’s Democratic base has tended to help Democratic candidates in statewide elections. By reducing the bloc Democratic vote, Hudson County may become less influential overall, and may no longer be able to swing elections to Democrats as in the past.
Wefer is running for U.S. Senate
Of course, this new trend is unlikely to help former Hoboken Housing Authority chair Dana Wefer, who is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate with the hope that she will face off against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in November.
Wefer started off as a Democrat and a strong supporter of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Wefer switched parties in late 2016 in an effort to run in the Republican primary for governor and dropped out after a little over a month. She has since moved to Bergen County where she is launching her Senate campaign.
But despite the label, Wefer’s core beliefs do not reflect those of the state GOP. Her campaign rhetoric, however, strongly resembles campaigns in Hoboken in which new arrivals blasted older Hoboken residents as being corrupt. It is a formula that reformers continue to use.
Although federal prosecutors have dropped their case against Menendez on charges of corruption after a mistrial was declared last year, Wefer’s campaign is focusing on those allegations and she apparently hopes to ride a crest of anti-corruption.
“I like her a lot, but she’s really not a Republican either,” Arango said. “There will be a number of strong Republican candidates who will step up to run against Menendez.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.