State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack has flatly refuted suggestions that he might “take back” his endorsement of Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise for reelection if State Sen. Sandra Cunningham leaps into the fray in the Democratic primary next year.
“I’m with Tom,” Stack said. “I don’t take back endorsements once I give them.”
The speculation that Stack might withdraw his support of DeGise arose when it became clear that DeGise had garnered support partly in reaction to a challenge by Jersey City Freeholder Bill O’Dea.
DeGise is seen as a political moderate in a county known for its extreme elements, and many are unwilling to risk the political stability DeGise provides.
While O’Dea may be backing off his campaign to become county executive, Jersey City Councilman Richard Boggiano may run instead. He is apparently angry at the county’s plans to construct a new court house in the Journal Square area, and the disruption the project will create for people who live in the area.
Boggiano aside, not everybody is happy with DeGise – not because of DeGise himself, but because of the political apparatus he maintains around him – old guard political operatives who were once associated with since-defeated Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, West New York Mayor Sal Vega, and Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith.
Some political people who have struggled against this old guard in the past, such as Bayonne Mayor James Davis or Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, might want to dismantle the old machine so that it can’t resurrect itself in the future.
This may be particularly true when it comes to whoever might replace Fulop if the mayor runs for governor. While some reports suggest that former Gov. Jim McGreevey might seek the Jersey City mayoral slot, others suggest that Cunningham might become mayor and continue the legacy of her late husband, former Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham, who died in office. But the other name haunting this scenario would be Healy. Should he seek to regain the seat he lost to Fulop, Healy would need the old political machine currently in the employ of DeGise.
Even though he was just elected in June, Davis may also be looking over his shoulder at this same machine. Defeated Mayor Smith is not the problem in Bayonne. But Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell is.
A host of people appear to be planning to run against O’Donnell in the state Assembly primary next June, including newly-elected Councilman Juan Perez, former Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority Chairman Nicholas A. Chiaravalloti, and Rafael Augusto, who recently ran unsuccessfully for the Bayonne freeholder seat.
O’Donnell may get Fulop support
In a classic tale of strange bedfellows, O’Donnell – despite his ties to the old guard in Jersey City – might well get the support of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
This is partly because of Davis’ connection to state Sen. Steve Sweeney, who some believe will oppose Fulop in any potential Democratic primary for governor.
This sordid tale of political intrigue and reversal would make a good spy thriller for Bill O’Dea to write (when he gets through writing his TV scripts).
Fulop originally plotted to unseat Smith because Smith had promised not to get involved in the Jersey City race between Fulop and Healy, and then allegedly betrayed Fulop by giving money to the Healy campaign. There were other slights over the years, but this was the worst. Fulop’s people reached out to then-Bayonne Councilman Ray Greaves to offer to support his bid for mayor. But this fell apart, and Greaves remained on the Smith ticket.
Back then, Smith also had the support of Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason, a substantial financial resource for local and even state level politicians. Mason is closely tied to Sweeney with whom she apparently hopes to run for lieutenant governor on a Sweeney ticket.
Politics being politics, Mason and Smith had a last minute falling out. Reports suggest that Smith met with Mason’s arch rival, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, seeking support for his faltering election. Three weeks before the Bayonne runoff election, Mason and Sweeney dumped money into the Davis campaign.
Even before this, Fulop had endorsed Smith for reelection. But this was a trade off for a donation the Smith campaign had made to the Newark race and Raj Baraka, whom Fulop also backed.
After the municipal election and Davis’ victory, Fulop people have been in contact with O’Donnell – who currently retains his seat as assemblyman, despite his being a close ally of Smith.
Conflict for governor felt in Bayonne
In a political war that pits Fulop against Sweeney, O’Donnell is seen as a Fulop foothold into Bayonne, and someone who is being encouraged to serve as the leading opponent of the Davis administration. Fulop insiders believe Davis won with an odd mix of support that will fall apart within a short time as some grow unhappy with the mayor if and when he can’t deliver on what they expected of him.
The Fulop people are convinced that the Davis Administration will self-destruct, and that if O’Donnell remains close by he will benefit from the chaos.
There is some infighting among Davis people. But some believe that when Jay Coffey retakes his seat as city attorney, much of this will get settled. The Davis Administration, however, will have to untangle the mess left when the Smith Administration reorganized city government several years ago, reducing it to four departments. This allowed Smith and his closest allies to control all aspects of government, and eliminate potential competitors. But it also created some odd governmental structural problems that put inappropriate departments together. Coffey and Davis will likely call for a new restructuring to undo some of this confusion.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.