For a while, as the crowds gathered outside Brian Stack’s local state Senate office on Palisades Avenue in Jersey City on Feb. 19, it was hard to tell who was endorsing who.
The crowd of more than 500 people who spilled out onto the street -- until local police were forced to close that portion to traffic -- chanted “Brian, Brian, Brian,” until Stack, who was there to endorse the reelection bid of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, seized the public address microphone and changed the chant to “Fulop, Fulop, Fulop.”
The moment made clear that Stack, who is also mayor of Union City, would help Fulop’s reelection effort through his own powerful Union City political organization.
Stack called Fulop a leader with progressive ideas. “An honest man, doing a good job,” he said.
The municipal elections will be held in November instead of May this year, and Fulop currently faces two challengers, former Assemblyman Charles Mainor and Bill Matsikoudis, corporation counsel under former Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
Ward D Councilman Michael Yun, who has not yet said if he will run for mayor or reelection to the council, dismissed the endorsement taking place in his own backyard.
“I’m not scared about it,” he said later, laughing.
Stack is state senator in the 33rd District, which represents about half of northern Jersey City. He can bring workers and resources to a part of the city where Fulop is seen as vulnerable. Stack’s political organization is so powerful it often attracts statewide candidates.
Changing political fortunes
Ironically, at this time last year Stack was courting Senate President Steve Sweeney as a governor candidate even though Fulop was also a rumored candidate for governor.
This endorsement comes almost nine months before the actual municipal election, and suggests that Fulop will take The Heights seriously and will pour resources into an area he has not won in the past.
Both councilmen who represent sections of the Heights are considered opposition to Fulop.
Having served nearly four years as mayor, Fulop is confronted with a different kind of campaign than the one he successfully ran in 2013. He is faced with a host of issues, including the perception that he may be out of touch with certain parts of the city, a perception is recently attempted to offset by delivering a separate State of the City Address in each of the six wards, each geared towards that particular ward.
While Ward F with its spate of gun violence has made the most news, The Heights has a number of issues, such as the pending revaluation, parks renovation, school overcrowding and such that make it a challenge as well.
Fulop has not yet announced council candidates with whom he will be running in The Heights, names that his advisors said will be unveiled over the next few months with the hopes of getting the most positive exposure.
But most of those already announced were on hand for the Stack endorsement, and these included Council President Rolando Lavarro, and At-Large Councilmembers Daniel Rivera and Joyce Watterman. Ward E Councilmember Candice Osborne was out of town for the announcement. Ward E may prove a problem for Fulop since Osborne faces stiff opposition from community leader Nicholas Grillo that could split Fulop’s vote.
Who is running?
Fulop campaigners handed out pre-printed signs saying “Fulop 2017” although not everybody in the crowd was completely aware of what this was about
One woman kept asking another woman: “What’s he running for?” The other woman answered: “For mayor. He’s running for mayor.”
“I’ve never endorsed a politician from another town. I’ve always wanted to keep from interfering with other people’s business, but Mayor Fulop is a good leader.” – Brian Stack
“No,” the second woman said. “Mr. Fulop.”
Many of the people clearly did not speak English so some of the leaders spoke Spanish to them, rallying them up so that they cried in Spanish as they waved their signs.
Daniel Rivera spoke to the crowd over the PA system almost exclusively in Spanish, getting their voices to echo against the brick facings of the buildings across the street.
Maury Greenberg who lives on Palisades Avenue a few blocks away has been a resident of Jersey City for about three and a half years.
“I like what he’s doing,” he said, referring to Mayor Fulop. “The city is run better now than it was before. He’s bringing good business to the city.”
Stack and Fulop arrived together fashionably late so that the crowd fully closed the street.
Stack and Fulop hugged each other and then came up to the microphone
“I’ve never done this before in Jersey City,” Stack said. “I’ve never endorsed a politician from another town. I’ve always wanted to keep from interfering with other people’s business. But Mayor Fulop is a good leader. He’s honest and hard-working and I believe he is good for the city.”
Stack did not back any of the candidates in the 2013 race between Fulop and then-Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
“I want a pledge from everybody here to work hard to help get Mayor Fulop reelected; he is honest and this city needs good leadership,” Stack said. At this point the crowd started chanting “Brian, Brian, Brian,” but Stack shook his head and said “No, this should be ‘Fulop, Fulop, Fulop,’” a chant the crowd then picked up. Young people carrying their own self-made signs weaved through the crowd with pro-Fulop sentiments written out in magic marker.
Amid all this, Fulop promised to work hard for the community and praised Stack for his position on immigrants and legislation Stack sponsored that would restore federal funding if the president cuts it off to Sanctuary Cities – municipalities that have refused to cooperate in rounding up undocumented workers.
“We do not want to break up families,” Fulop said.
During his endorsement speech, Stack called Fulop, “The premiere leader in the county,” and guaranteed his team would help knock on doors every night.
“Not only am I endorsing, but we’re going to work extremely hard for a person that has worked extremely hard for Jersey City,” Stack said.
“Our goal, this coming November, is to win with record numbers: not just to win by a little bit, but to win big,” Fulop said. “And I know that when I look what’s here today, we’re going to do that.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.