Bayonne’s municipal election race heated up last week as anti-administration groups filed petition signatures for a ballot referendum in the May election to approve an elected school board and to restore rent control.
Michael Alonso, who has spearheaded the elected school board initiative, took to local TV for a week with an appeal that enabled the effort to get the necessary signatures.
How many of the signatures are valid remains for the city clerk to determine.
If successful, the two referenda might help the efforts of James Davis in his attempt to unseat Mayor Mark Smith.
While neither referendum is directly connected to the Davis campaign, Davis has endorsed both, and his supporters believe the referenda will bring anti-Smith voters to the polls.
Anthony Zanowic, also running for mayor, could benefit as well.
Bayonne has not had an elected school board since the 1970s.
The lack of a teachers’ contract has many educators blaming Smith, who appoints the board. Smith people have replied that the mayor has no control over the contract, except to raise taxes if the school board meets teachers’ demands.
Davis has his suspicions about dirty tricks in the campaign against him.
“I was supposed to meet with the teachers last Monday,” he said. “I rented a room at Saint Andrews. Someone called the Archdiocese and complained, and rather than make trouble for people in St. Andrews, I canceled the meeting.”
But he said he has met with some teachers in his office, or talked to others on the phone.
“I hope some of them will put signs on their lawn for me, but there is a fear factor,” he said. “Some real retaliation.”
He said he hopes to begin his walking campaign shortly.
Davis clarified one persistent question about his state campaign election reports.
“I opened my account in November, which means that my next due date isn’t until April 11,” he said. “Had I opened the account in October, I would have had to report sooner.”
Meanwhile, the Smith campaign has issued its first re-election TV ad.
The ad, “Five Years,” will begin airing on cable. Delivered to camera by Mayor Smith, the ad encapsulates his campaign’s main themes of getting Bayonne back on the right track. With Bayonne on the verge of bankruptcy at the time he took office, the mayor and his team say he reduced city debt by over 40 percent, attracted new development, created jobs, and fights every day to keep Bayonne moving forward.
Midnight flyers again?
Insiders in the Davis campaign flatly denied any responsibility for the issuing of two negative flyers on Feb. 2.
One flyer blasted Smith for allegedly having numerous family members on the municipal and school payroll.
The second was a nasty attack on Business Administrator Steve Gallo – the claims were so horrendous and clearly untrue that no one in Davis camp would defend against them.
“We agree with the information about the family members,” said one source close to Davis. “But we didn’t distribute it and we don’t know who did.”
As for the Gallo piece, the insiders said they would not waste their time or conduct an attack of that kind on Gallo.
“Gallo isn’t running for office; Smith is,” these insiders said. “We’re going after Smith. But we haven’t started yet. We’re just getting ready to send out our first mailer.”
Davis also said he is not responsible for either flyer.
“I saw the one about the jobs,” he said. “Someone had dumped about 15 of them where I live.”
As for the second anti-Gallo flyer, Davis said his parents live in the neighborhood where they were supposedly distributed.
“I would never do anything like that,” he said. “Politics is politics. No one should be attacked personally. I’m running against Mark on his record.”
But Davis’ opponents fail to be convinced. Sources on the Smith side believe Davis’ campaign is responsible for the mud.
Smith people also disputed the claims made in the flyer that Smith’s family members were on the payroll. Smith family members are involved in various areas of public service, especially the school district. But they do not earn the exorbitant salaries the flyer claimed. Nearly all of them were hired before Smith became mayor.
“Mark was eight years old when his brother Leo got hired into the school district,” one prominent Smith person said.
DeCosmis to seek council seat in Weehawken
One-time hero cop Richard DeCosmis said he will run for the 2nd Ward council seat in Weehawken in May, challenging Councilwoman Rosemary J. Lavagnino.
Lavagnino is expected to run for reelection on a ticket headed by Mayor Richard Turner.
DeCosmis and Turner have been at odds for years after DeCosmis (according to his own version of the story) backed a freeholder candidate Turner didn’t support.
DeCosmis said he is not running with a ticket.
“I’m going it alone, with lots of help,” he said. “Tough to get people to come forward and run. I’m born and raised in my ward, and I think I have a really good shot.”
The race for Weehawken Board of Education features four candidates for four seats: Julian Brian Mera, John Cannata, Mark Denfeld and Noel Berto-Sanchez. Three positions are for three year terms, and one seat will be for a two year unexpired term.
Secaucus Board of Education candidates filed this week as well, with only one incumbent, Joseph Lewis, seeking reelection. Not running for reelection are Lisa Snedeker and Dora Marra.
The North Bergen Board of Education race looks to be a horse race, with incumbents Luis Diaz, Elaine Nicoliello, and Kanaiyalal Patel being challenged by nine candidates: Odemaris Ramirez, Juana Maria Dilone, Veronica Carterillon, Luis Gutierrez, Arnold Hernandez, Carmine McKinney, Mary Luz Munoz, Joel Nail and Jenny Tellenez.
Four freeholder seats in dispute
The Hudson County Board of Elections has confirmed the new freeholder redistricting with nearly all of the changes taking place in Jersey City.
The biggest impact will be on the Hoboken/Jersey City seat currently occupied by Anthony Romano, who is expected to be challenged by Perry Belfiore and Phil Cohen. A fourth possible candidate may emerge out of the Jersey Heights again.
Romano is one of four possible contested freeholder races this year that include Anthony Vainieri and Henry Marrero in North Bergen, Freeholder Jose Munoz and WNY Commission Caridad Rodriguez in WNY/Weehawken, and Freeholder Jeff Dublin and Gerard Balmir Jr. in Jersey City.
John Minella apparently dispelled rumors last week that he intended to challenge Freeholder Doreen DiDominco in Bayonne.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.