Hoboken is about to enter nine months of heated local elections. As candidates for November’s Board of Education race begin to prepare, members of the Hoboken political realm are also discussing who the most viable candidates will be for mayor and council-at-large in May of 2013. And one resident is circulating petitions to change the voting date of next year’s race, which would give Mayor Dawn Zimmer another half year in office.
As it stands now, this coming May, Zimmer will run for another four-year term, as will three council-at-large members. The other six council members, who represent individual wards, will be up for election in 2015.
Sources say that Hoboken’s political players have been meeting recently to weigh their options for a candidate to run against Zimmer.
Possible candidates include Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, County Freeholder Anthony Romano, 4th Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti, and local developer and former Councilman Frank “Pupie” Raia.
“It’s not just any old mayorship; the mayor of Hoboken is the crown jewel of the state.” – Ramos’ Chief of Staff Alex Habib
As of now, the only potential candidate with a registered committee is Zimmer. The “Friends of Dawn Zimmer Hoboken Mayor” committee had raised over $30,000 as of July.
Petitions to change date
Two petitions are currently circulating that would result in an extended term for Zimmer and the three council-at-large members, who were all elected on her ticket in 2009.
The petitions would eliminate runoff elections and to move mayoral elections from May to November. That means that the race would be run in November of 2013, the same time as that of Gov. Chris Christie.
The petitions have heated up the discussion among potential candidates and power players.
Zimmer couldn’t be reached for comment because she was away last week, but many possible candidates weighed in on their expectations for the next election.
The deadline for submitting a petition nominating a candidate is March 5. The election will be May 8 as of now, with a runoff if no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote (this could change if the petitioners have their way).
Castellano said she is hopeful that her allies will announce a candidate by Labor Day.
Extending Zimmer’s term
Resident Vijay Chaudhuri is currently gathering signatures for two petitions that seek to move the election to November and eliminate runoff elections.
He said that as long as he can gather enough signatures in time, he can get the measure on the ballot for this November, in time for people to vote on it when they vote on the president.
Chaudhuri says he expects to have “well over the amount” of signatures needed for both petitions.
Chaudhuri said that moving the election and eliminating a runoff helps increase voter participation and saves money by consolidating elections.
“[Currently], an election seems to take place every month,” said Chaudhuri. “We’re looking to make it easier for folks and people have been very receptive to what we’re saying.”
Chaudhuri is a member of the Democratic Committee and said he works to give residents a voice to the mayor and City Council. Chaudhuri, however, stressed that these petitions are a “bipartisan” issue.
“I would distinguish this [effort] from my [my role in] other elections,” continued Chaudhuri, later adding, “this is a win-win situation.”
“In these economic times, any way to save Hoboken taxpayers money is a good thing,” added Chaudhuri.
Members of the council minority faction who oppose Zimmer expressed their disapproval with the petitions. Both Mason and Castellano said that they also disapproved of the Board of Education elections recently being moved to November.
“You were elected to a four-year term,” said Castellano. “If you want to run again, run again. Don’t try to expand your [current] term.”
Mason said she had supported an instant runoff in the past, which allows voters to rank candidates and requires a candidate to earn the majority to win. Mason clarified that she would not approve the runoff elimination measure proposed by Chaudhuri’s petition, which would allow a candidate to win with less than 50 percent of the vote.
“If you can win with less than 50 percent of the vote, that means there’s a potential to divide the city further,” said Mason, who has run against Zimmer for mayor before. “I don’t believe our democratic process should be totally a money issue. If it was all [about] money, you’d have dictators.”
Hoboken council members considered
Regarding running next May, Castellano said if the she would be “honored” to be selected among those currently be considered.
“I’m a very strong contender,” said Castellano. “We’re narrowing the field down [to] one candidate. I am in the running, and I would be honored to represent [us].”
Castellano said that Occhipinti would also like to be considered, but Occhipinti did not return a request for comment.
“We have a few more meetings to go, so hopefully by Labor Day we can announce [our candidate],” said Castellano. “We’re working toward that goal very diligently.”
Mason said that she has been rumored to run for a variety of positions, including assembly, mayor, and even governor.
“Every possible position has been said,” she said with a laugh. Mason added that she is currently focused on 2nd Ward issues and her civic league, and wouldn’t confirm whether she wants to run for mayor.
“Who knows what’s going to happen,” said Mason. “In making this call [to narrow down the candidates], we have no clue.”
Ramos for mayor?
Ramos’ Chief of Staff Alex Habib said that “all options are on the table” for him.
“He hasn’t ruled it out,” said Habib. “He definitely has the best record of accomplishment, and he’s the highest office holder in the city…He sounds like an obvious choice.”
Ramos joined the Hoboken City Council at age 25 in 1999, before eventually moving on to become assemblyman.
Ramos was unavailable for comment, but Habib said that he is “humbled” that people are throwing his name out there.
“There’s a lot of buzz about him potentially doing this,” said Habib. “Not just in Hoboken, but observers from outside of the state. It’s not just any old mayorship; the mayor of Hoboken is the crown jewel of the state.”
“Raia, who recently threw his large annual party along the waterfront, sent a statement through a spokesperson saying that like Ramos, he is keeping his options open.”
“I have not made a formal announcement as to my participation in next year’s mayoral contest yet,” said Raia in the statement. “However, I am keeping all of my options open, and have not ruled out any course of action.”
Raia said that he is currently focused on watching the school board elections unfold. He is not a candidate in that race, but will likely support a ticket.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.