Freeholder Anthony “Stick” Romano of Hoboken is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place in deciding what to do next with his political career.
There’s a backlash among Old Hoboken against Assemblyman Ruben Ramos because of Ramos’ decision to run for mayor. Ramos’ political behind-the-scenes efforts have put him in a good position to get the backing of State Sen. Brian Stack in the November mayoral election. Some are pushing Romano to consider a run for mayor as an alternative to Ramos and Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
The argument is that Zimmer is unlikely to select Romano next year as the candidate for freeholder, so he might as well run for mayor. Zimmer may well have her own freeholder candidate in mind.
Romano, however, has also been criticized for being too close to Zimmer – especially during Hurricane Sandy, when he worked with her to help get Hoboken out of its dire straits, relying on his ability to work with the Zimmer administration as a way to save his job as freeholder.
If he decides to run for mayor, however, he can kiss his freeholder seat good-bye, and he probably won’t win the mayoralty with the anti-Zimmer forces so divided.
Romano has to convince Zimmer that he is someone she can count on, thus voiding some of the critics in her camp who might be working against his reelection as freeholder. It is not an easy chore, but it is possibly the only route he can take.
Carmelo Garcia’s troubles
The legal effort to wedge Carmelo Garcia out of his candidacy for assembly on Stack’s slate may not have its roots with Zimmer, despite what is being said by people in various political camps who blame Zimmer. Garcia’s legal woes stem from his desire to remain employed at the Hoboken Housing Authority even if he’s elected assemblyman. Five city residents have sued, contending he’s ineligible to run because his HHA job is a federal position.
The legal challenge may be coming from those who were thought to be in the running but got cut out of the loop by a clever political move that put Garcia and another close ally of Ramos onto the ticket instead. The suspects behind the legal move, which was expected to go to court on Friday, April 19 (after press time), include Hoboken Councilman Ravi Bhalla, a Zimmer ally who is also running for the state Assembly and had hoped to run with Stack. This is Bhalla’s second attempt at the same seat, and he was rejected by Stack the last time, too. Other possible culprits include people in the anti-Zimmer camp who may want to derail this move because they are angry at Ramos.
The question is: can Garcia serve both posts when the Housing Authority gets federal money to operate?
The federal Hatch Act prohibits an employee of the federal government from holding a state elected office. This was the reason West New York Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez had to resign as an aide of Rep. Albio Sires when she was elected to the state Assembly several years ago.
But those close to Stack say they looked into all aspects of this and found no legal reason to give Garcia the boot from the ticket.
Recall is on
West New York Commissioner Count Wiley has officially started the recall against Mayor Felix Roque in what many predict will be a three-ring circus, although behind the scenes the anti-Roque forces appear to be gathering for a united campaign.
A lot will depend on Roque’s support among ordinary people in West New York and whether he can maintain his cachet as a reformer. Many hoping to unseat him are hoping the old rock song by the British band The Who holds true: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” They hope to tarnish Roque as a reformer who has gone over the dark side of the force.
It is difficult to picture Roque as Darth Vader, however, although his political opponents will try. Roque’s real vulnerability will be the “read my lips” issue former President George H. Bush suffered from. Roque promised to lower taxes after using high taxes as an issue against former Mayor Sal Vega. But the Roque administration raised taxes this year instead. The fact that Roque has hired a number of people that some believe to be overpaid and underqualified also gives Wiley or any other challenger ample ammunition to use against him.
Meanwhile, in other ring of the circus, assault charges and counter charges between Wiley and Roque appear to be headed for court resulting from an incident in the hall after a city commissioner meeting. Most likely, the charges will be dismissed, including those of alleged harassment against WNY Parking Authority Chairman Richard Rivera. In a town where heated exchanges are common, it is hard to take any of them too seriously.
Wiley, however, did lose one of his potential candidates. With Doug Richards, a resident from the waterfront area, Wiley had hoped would to generate support from a part of the city often not involved in local politics. It is possible that he might try to name David Rivera in his place.
The big race
With Stack claiming he will support no candidate in the upcoming Jersey City mayoral contest, political observers are currently waiting to see to whom state Sen. Sandra Cunningham throws her support.
Many knowledgeable people claim the mayoral race is too close to call, with Councilman Steven Fulop deadlocked with Mayor Jerramiah Healy for the lead. With four candidates running, the election could go into a runoff.
This leads to some questions about strategy, such as which candidate can win in a head-to-head contest if they no longer have strong City Council candidates to help draw the vote for them.
There could be one or two runoff elections in the council races as well, although it is very likely that Charles Epps and Viola Richardson will win outright. Sean Connors, Nidia Lopez, Peter Brennan and Rolando Lavarro are also strong contenders. But in Jersey City, anything is possible. With more than two dozen ward candidates and eight at-large candidates running on May 14, a runoff election is inevitable.
Check out hudsonreporter.com to watch the candidates’ debate.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.