Supporters of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy have had a lot to celebrate over the last few weeks because some political observers believe the Jersey City mayoral race may be too close to call, now that state Sen. Sandra Cunningham has decided to seek reelection to her legislative seat instead of running to become Jersey City’s mayor.
The bad news for Healy is the likelihood that Cunningham will endorse Jerry Walker, the third declared candidate, a move that will likely push the mayoral election into a runoff. If they can be believed, supporters of Councilman Steven Fulop – the perceived frontrunner in the race – say Healy might not make the runoff if Cunningham’s votes go to Walker.
This may explain some of the fast and furious discussions going on between Healy and State Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, whose district encompasses the other half of Jersey City.
Behind the scenes deal-making has created an unusual bond between Healy and Stack, which could benefit both of them in the upcoming election cycle. Stack apparently has decided to dump Assemblyman Ruben Ramos (D-33rd Dist.) from his ticket, and has already lost Assemblyman Sean Connors, who is running on Fulop’s slate for Jersey City’s Ward D council seat. Although Healy wanted James Carroll to run in Ward D, Stack is apparently trying to enlist Carroll to run on a countywide ticket for county sheriff – a very good pick, since Carroll has a lot of experience as a police officer.
Healy, however, would like Carroll to run as a Ward D candidate to oppose Connors, pitting two police officers in a very crime-conscious part of Jersey City.
Everything is perception. The Healy people are trying to tell the public that Fulop is so out of touch with anything outside of Ward E that he would need a passport to visit those places, and that his slate of candidates are so unfamiliar that they might have to show photo ID to people to even recognize them, let alone vote for them.
Fulop apparently has been working hard to counter this impression of a no-name ticket. Ward B Councilwoman Nidia Lopez has decided to join his ticket, a significant coup. But Stack also has his eye on Lopez as a possible running mate for one of the two Assembly slots. The other slot would go to one of four possible people in Hoboken, Councilwoman Beth Mason, Councilman Ravi Bhalla, Councilman Michael Russo, or former school board President Frank Raia.
This leaves Ramos little choice but to run for mayor of Hoboken against incumbent Dawn Zimmer, joining what is already considered a crowded field of potential candidates.
Healy – in contrast to Fulop – is so laid back that when he says he is running for mayor, we wouldn’t want to mistake his pace for anything like running to catch a bus. “A quick gait” might even be a gross exaggeration. A slug might give Healy a run for his money, provided the slug gave Healy a head start. But Healy has a solid ticket, all of whom bring something of their own to the ticket, provided he can find someone to run in Ward D if Carroll doesn’t.
The cost of peace in Hudson County
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, in the unenviable role as the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, has been wearing out his car tires with all the running around he’s done trying to keep the peace this spring. He reportedly is meeting with anyone who will meet with him, including West New York Mayor Felix Roque and an attempt to meet with Stack. Roque reportedly wants to name his own county and state elected officials to the HCDO slate – including possibly a replacement for his arch enemy, Freeholder Jose Munoz.
Meanwhile, Stack’s arch rival, State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, has apparently issued his own demands for peace with Stack that would include naming both of Stack’s assembly candidates, one of whom would reportedly be former state Assemblywoman Joan Quigley. Since whoever runs with Stack is destined to win, because of his vast block of votes in that district, Stack can afford to tell Smith (nicely of course) to take a hike – if he bothers to talk to Smith at all.
Meanwhile Frank Scarafile, the man who bravely faced Stack in the Union City mayoral race in 2010, may be on the short list as a possible replacement for the schools superintendent in Secaucus. Scarafile has been to one Secaucus school board meeting and one Secaucus Town Council meeting over the last few weeks. This might mean the Sacco camp might be tapping him again to run against Stack for state Senate if there is indeed a Democratic civil war in the spring.
Stack’s opponents appear to be desperate to isolate him and keep him from building a campaign that might include a countywide coalition. For this reason, recent newspaper advertisements point to how he seems to be bringing home the state bacon only to Union City, while allegedly neglecting the rest of his district (i.e. Jersey City).
Will anybody run against Gonnelli?
Meanwhile, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli – flush from an all star fundraiser at the Crown Plaza last week – appears to be singing a different tune from the one he sang in late 2012. Back then, Gonnelli claimed that anyone who disagreed with him on anything, no matter how trivial, must be running against him. But these days, opponents seem hard to come by, with Gonnelli jokingly claiming, “Someone will be running against me,” but whom?
With Sacco, state Assemblywoman Angelica M. Jimenez, Freeholder Jose Munoz, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, and many others in attendance, it seems something of a suicide mission to even consider running an opposing ticket, although reports suggest many supporters of former Mayor Dennis Elwell are putting together something.
In attendance at Gonnelli’s affair was the 99-year-old former Mayor Paul Amico, who will likely have a gala thrown for him in the spring when he turns 100. Amico, who has long been one of the craftier political survivors in Hudson County, has finally figured out how to beat all of his political opponents: he outlives them. One report said he didn’t look at all his age, waving to the crowd just as he might have if he were running for reelection.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.