Hudson County politics has been in the spin cycle over the last few weeks, with everybody throwing their own theories into the mix as to what state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack will do next.
Depending on whose spin you believe, the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) is either on the verge of knocking state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco off its ballot line for re-election, or headed into the most serious Democratic political war since Stack ran off the line in 2008.
According to one source, HCDO Chairman and Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith met with Sacco and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and came up with a slate that has state Senator Sandra Cunningham running with HCDO support in the 31st District (southern half of Jersey City and all of Bayonne) with Assemblymen Charles Mainor and Jason O’Donnell.
This slate also has Sacco running in the 32nd District that includes North Bergen, West New York, Guttenberg, Secaucus and the western portions of the Hudson County with Assemblyman Vincent Prieto and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez.
Stack, if this theory can be believed, will be running with Assemblyman Ruben Ramos and former Assemblywoman Joan Quigley in the 33rd District that includes Union City, Hoboken and half of Jersey City.
The problem with this theory, supposedly leaked out of the Sacco camp, is that Ramos has already made moves to run for mayor of Hoboken against Mayor Dawn Zimmer, and when contacted, Quigley said no one had approached her about running – although she thinks she could bring some peace and stability to troubled north Hudson.
Quigley, a resident of Jersey City, was the assemblywoman in the 32nd District where Sacco is senator until redistricting gave her part of the city to Stack.
She was replaced by Assemblyman Sean Connors, who has since decided to give up his Assembly seat to run for Jersey City Council on a slate led by Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop.
Even if Stack plans no civil war, he is short two candidates to fill his assembly seats. Reports say he’s been interviewing people from Hoboken as possible replacements for Ramos – which could include Council President Ravi Bhalla, Councilwoman Beth Mason, Councilman Michael Russo
and former schools trustee, Frank Raia.
The short list appears to be either Bhalla or Mason.
Meanwhile, other sources claim that there are people stumbling over themselves to become Stack’s running mate in Jersey City, since anyone who runs with Stack in the 33rd is almost assured of being elected there.
Stack did ask Jersey City Councilwoman Nidia Lopez to run, but she decided to run with Fulop for council as well, leaving, as one source put it “a lot of Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike” trying to get Stack’s attention, include Peter Basso, Elvin Dominici, and Saulo Diaz.
The other problem with the leaked ticket is that Mainor may or may not run for reelection in the 31st District, and some believe that he would then be replaced by Karen DeSoto, an activist attorney with close connections to Cunningham, but someone who has been a thorn in the side of Smith and O’Donnell, making for an interesting but conflicted ticket next November.
But some sources close to Cunningham and Stack are saying that Stack is pressuring Smith – who decides who will get HCDO support – to dump Sacco from the HCDO line. In this theory, Cunningham and Stack would lead a ticket that would include Jimmy Carroll as the sheriff candidate, and would likely put up a slate against Sacco, Prieto, and Jimenez.
Feeding this nightmare scenario was Smith’s recent visit to West New York Mayor Felix Roque, which Sacco people claim Smith never told them about. Roque is a Stack ally and would be part any planned civil war in the county.
But will Cunningham, upon whom this whole plan hinges, go along with it, when she could suddenly be in the middle of an unnecessary fight for her seat?
Cunningham, who is expected to back Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s reelection in Jersey City, would be reelected with or without HCDO support, and would only spend a lot of money if she were to take Stack’s side in a countywide civil war.
People around Stack and Cunningham might benefit from such a move, especially people who might be seeking Hudson County legal contracts currently controlled by law firms associated with Sacco or U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. In that event, the civil war would be driven less by political necessity than by a money grab by influential agents behind the scenes.
Implied in this scenario is the threat that if Smith does not go along and betray Sacco – who Smith admires politically and has in the past supported – the Stack ticket might run former Hudson County Sheriff Juan Perez against O’Donnell, an unlikely situation since Perez has been seeking to get his sheriff’s seat back, and if not chosen to run on Stack’s ticket for sheriff, will likely stay out of the election.
Vega could throw monkey wrench into West New York election
Former West New York Mayor Sal Vega has created a stir in North Hudson after appearing at a fundraiser for Fulop in Jersey City, raising concerns that Vega might seek to run for mayor against Roque, the man who beat him, in a recall or regular election. Roque is expected to soon go to trial on charges that he and his son allegedly hacked into a political opponent’s website. If convicted, Roque will be forced to step down and this will result in a special election.
If that happens, Rep. Albio Sires and his chief of staff Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner will likely have enough West New York commissioner votes to name the interim mayor and will likely back a ticket that would include Commissioner Caridad Rodriquez and possibly Sires’s wife, with Rodriquez becoming the next mayor despite strong opposition from Commission Count Wiley. This may be why Roque is quietly replacing many people appointed to key positions in West New York when Sires was mayor, similar to what Vega tried to do when he replaced Sires as mayor.
This move to provide jobs to key supporters might prove useful to Roque if he somehow manages to hold on as mayor. Considering how much money he has to invest in his legal defense, he just might beat the rap.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.