Big endorsements do not bring many votes, said one political sage in Jersey City, after hearing that state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco has become the latest powerful political figure to endorse the reelection of Mayor Steven Fulop.
“These endorsements might get Fulop some campaign workers, but small community groups matter more,” said the observer. “These are the people who understand the needs of their community and represent those who vote there.”
Two weeks ago, Fulop received endorsements from state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. A union for transit workers also gave the nod to Fulop, who is starting to build a sense of inevitability.
In fact, some local political observers believe Fulop will likely keep his seat unless someone new enters the race.
To date, Bill Matsikoudis and former state Assemblyman Charles Mainor are the only two challengers. Both of them may have a hard hill to climb to beat Fulop.
Mainor is seen as strong in Ward F, but not in other parts of the city.
“(Former Mayor) Glenn Cunningham brought out the vote in that part of the city,” said one observer. “But Mainor won’t get those kinds of numbers, even in Ward F.”
Matsikoudis is seen by many as a return to the policies of banished Mayor Jerramiah Healy, which some believe are obsolete in the Jersey City that Fulop has reinvented.
Fulop is not invulnerable, of course, especially with the threat of a reevaluation, but no current candidate seems capable of taking advantage.
Ward D Councilman Michael Yun has been rumored as a mayoral candidate. But even he may not be able to overcome Fulop’s steadily improving edge.
Yun, who has a lot of money, would likely throw the election into a runoff. Many believe Yun is capable of retaining his council seat, but not able to win a city-wide election as mayor.
Fulop people hope to avoid a runoff election for mayor, fearing that if he does not win on the first round of elections, he may be seen as a weak mayor in his second term. If Fulop wins without a runoff, he would go far towards regaining the political status as the second most powerful politician in Hudson County, a status some believe he lost when he decided not to run for governor.
A war of unions
Insiders claim teachers’ unions for Bayonne and Jersey City are behind the campaign to unseat Assembly members Angela McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti.
Bayonne Board of Education Trustee Christopher Munoz is expected to announce an alternative ticket for state Assembly shortly with his running mate Kristen Zadroga Hart, a coordinator for athletics in the Jersey City school district.
Just why the unions are suddenly taking a side in the Assembly election is uncertain, although union workers and union money could help offset the incumbents’ advantage of being supported by the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
Hart was campaign manager for the mostly successful union-backed candidates in Jersey City Board of Education election last year.
The issue appears to be McKnight’s support of charter schools. This could put Fulop in a tight corner, since he needs teachers’ unions for his own municipal election, which could make it unlikely he will endorse McKnight.
Is Cunningham in or out?
The other outstanding question is whether or not Fulop will stand behind state Senator Sandra Cunningham.
The Sacco endorsement of Fulop appears to indicate Fulop will be taking Sacco’s side in the fight to replace Cunningham.
Sacco is apparently seeking to take the state Senate presidency away from Senator Steve Sweeney. Cunningham is considered a Sweeney vote.
Sacco and Fulop are the people who will decide if Cunningham will get support from the Hudson Count Democratic Organization (HCDO) and will be allowed to run on the mainstream Democratic line which will be topped by Phil Murphy as the candidate for governor.
Cunningham campaign workers are on the street collecting petition signatures for Michael Griffith to run for Assembly on a Cunningham ticket – which means that the 31st District could have three tickets for state assembly.
Adding even more complexity to an already complex primary, Cunningham appears to be backing Jerry Walker for the Jersey City Freeholder seat currently held by Gerald Balmir. Fulop apparently withdrew his support and will name another candidate of his own. Meanwhile former Freeholder Jeff Dublin said he will seek to get that seat back. Balmir unseated Dublin three years ago with Fulop support. Also running for the seat might be Andy Kamp.
All hell breaking loose in Hoboken?
Details are emerging of a new ticket that is expected to run against Mayor Dawn Zimmer in November.
The ticket apparently will include Councilman Michael DeFusco for mayor with former Councilman Tony Soares, Councilman David Mello, and long time housing activist Cheryl Fallick for at-large council seats.
Mello, however, dismissed any role in this fusion ticket.
“Nobody has talked to me about joining a Defusco ticket,” he said. “I have no interest in joining a Defusco ticket, I am very interested in running with Mayor Zimmer again, I expect Mayor Zimmer to want me to run with her again, and I would only consider running on another ticket if Mayor Zimmer rejected me from hers – which is something she in no shape or fashion has done.”
Supporters of this ticket see it as a winning combination that will be able to defeat Zimmer. “Nobody can say this is old Hoboken against new,” one observer said.
There is one big obstacle. This is Freeholder Anthony Romano, who has yet to say whether he will run for mayor or not.
Supporters of DeFusco, including some powerful county Democrats, want Romano to withdraw from the mayor’s race in order to secure a two-way race between DeFusco and Zimmer.
Romano, however, said he will run in the primary for freeholder first, and if he wins, could run for freeholder and mayor in November. If he wins both, he will then decide which seat he will take.
County Democrats, however, are furious. They have given Romano an ultimatum: renounce his mayoral ambitions now, or face a primary challenge. One possible challenger might be Hoboken councilman Ruben Ramos, who would get the support of the HCDO.
“Stick (Romano) could wind up with nothing,” one DeFusco supporter said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org