Just when you thought the fun and games were over after Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop trounced Mayor Jerramiah Healy in the municipal elections in May, Hoboken emerges as a new battleground, something Hudson County’s most powerful are trying desperately to avoid.
But much like the Spanish Inquisition forced converts to support the Roman Church in the Middle Ages, arms are being twisted – especially in regard to seeking support for Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, who hopes to unseat popular Mayor Dawn Zimmer in the November election.
There is a lot of bad blood flowing in this election, so much so that the Ramos people seem to be scrambling to build support for a single ticket to oppose Zimmer, knowing that a split ticket with no runoff would likely swing the vote to Zimmer. (Runoff elections were eliminated in a referendum last year.)
This is why a possible rumored third ticket led by Freeholder Anthony Romano is dangerous to the Ramos camp, partly because it could include a significant amount of financial backing Ramos currently lacks.
Former school Trustee Frank Raia apparently wants to back a ticket that could include Romano for mayor, Democratic Chairman Jamie Cryan, Raia, and union leader Carla Katz for at-large council seats. Katz was supposedly going to be asked late last week to consider the race.
Some Ramos people on the street see the Romano move as a betrayal, claiming that Ramos, along with state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, were instrumental in saving Romano’s career after the Zimmer Administration downsized him into retirement. Ramos and Stack apparently helped him become freeholder, and claim that Romano appears to be seeking to make a deal with Zimmer to split the vote in Zimmer’s favor in exchange for a job in Hoboken public safety – a job that technically doesn’t exist.
Some Romano loyalists claim he got the same imaginary job offer from the Ramos camp.
Then, others from Old Hoboken claim that Ramos and Stack worked against Romano in the last freeholder race, seeking to get former Hoboken Councilwoman Terri LaBruno to replace him, and that this is partly the reason for the bad blood.
A split ticket helps Zimmer
Some in the Ramos team think Romano is kidding himself, and that he doesn’t have the support of Old Hoboken (the traditional Hoboken voters), while some in the Romano camp say Ramos alienated Old Hoboken from the beginning by setting up his ticket without consulting them.
Meanwhile, Raia, a developer and former school board president, appears to be ready to run a ticket of council candidates without Romano if necessary – and because of supposed bad blood between Raia and Ramos, the Raia ticket would back Zimmer. Raia would be hoping to grab one or more council seats and thus become the swing vote on an otherwise evenly split City Council.
If this wasn’t complicated enough, there may be a move to recall Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason during the November election, orchestrated by Zimmer supporters along with a coalition of Jersey City operatives angry over Mason’s support of Healy against Fulop last month. The idea is to keep Mason’s wealth and workers occupied so that they can’t help the other camps.
Licking their wounds
Meanwhile, other political people who supported Healy are still licking their wounds from the Jersey City mayoral race, trying to protect their political turf against the expected political backlash.
Rep. Albio Sires, along with his chief of staff, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, are the most conflicted, since they not only backed Healy – enraging newly-elected Mayor Fulop – but helped orchestrate the behind-the-scenes political surrender of West New York Felix Roque – who in the space of a few days gave in to every political demand made by state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
This move had to have enraged Sacco’s arch enemy, Stack, but in making amends, Sires and Turner are not expected to offer any support to Ramos in the Hoboken race.
Despite claims to the contrary, Sacco apparently wants to stay out of the Hoboken race, although he has apparently met at least twice with Ramos, who is pleading for support. While any ticket that has the support of Stack and Sacco would be amazingly powerful, most people believe it cannot happen. But stranger things have occurred.
Meanwhile, the West New York recall election plows ahead, having collected slightly over 2,000 of the 5,300 signatures needed to get the recall against the indicted Mayor Roque on the ballot. With 100 days left, recall supporters feel confident they will meet the number needed and then some.
On with the show
To show that he hasn’t been weakened significantly by the Jersey City race, Sires held a fundraiser that focused more in getting political heavyweights to show up than on how much money was raised.
While Sires’ ally, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, could not come, he sent his state director, Michael Soliman. Rep. Donald Payne sent his district director. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer sent her chief of staff as well.
The mayors included Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, East Newark Mayor Joe Smith, Guttenberg Mayor Gerry Drasheff, Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough, North Bergen Mayor Sacco, Weehawken Mayor Turner and – to the surprise of many – West New York’s Roque.
The Hudson County government contingent included Tom DeGise, Frank Schillari, Don DeLeo, Pam Gardner, and Janet Lawra. All but one Hudson County freeholder made an appearance.
Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill was among a host of Essex County officials. Assemblyman Joe Cryan of Union County joined local Assembly members Jason O’Donnell and Angelica Jimenez and Essex County Assembly members Ralph Caputo and Tom Giblin. Democrats past and present from Hudson and Essex counties were also on hand. Hoboken Democratic Chair Jamie Cryan was joined by council members from Bayonne and West New York as well as labor leaders from around the state.
Absent were either of the contenders for Jersey City mayor, and a comment from the Fulop camp suggested that the Sires event was a meeting of the older generation of political power in Hudson County.
“Those guys are on the way out. We’re on our way in,” this Fulop campaign worker said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.