Seems like the best way to get a job working for Secaucus these days may be to draw petitions to run for office.
This has become a huge problem for Secaucus Democrats hoping to find candidates to run against Mayor Michael Gonnelli and his ticket of independents.
“So far we had a couple possible tickets, but every time someone wants to run or picks up a petition, the mayor calls them and either gives them or a family member a job,” one of the Democratic organizers claimed.
Supposedly, one local attorney had been poised to run for mayor, but suddenly got an offer he couldn’t refuse – to work for the town. Another potential council candidate dropped out when his son was offered a job at the Department of Public Works, a source says.
Meanwhile, a former prominent politico apparently had to think things over more thoroughly even though he had promised to run. Another former Board of Education member who toyed with the idea of running for mayor appears to have dropped out as well after his son received a town job.
While the Democrats believe they have a candidate finally who will run for mayor against Gonnelli, everybody is just a little nervous.
“People keep changing their minds,” one Democrat said. “Now the time is running out. Our new plan is to write in our candidate in the primary election. This year each ward needs less than 15 signatures so a write in will be very easy. For the mayor we need around 40 signatures. This will give us another two months to put something together. We also got word not expect any money from the Hudson County Democratic Organization.”
Unlike most other Hudson County towns, Secaucus’ municipal election is partisan, meaning that it has political parties. While Gonnelli runs as an independent, he has significant ties to the county Democrats which might suggest why the county party won’t back an insurgent Democratic effort in Secaucus.
The waiting game
Although Mayor Dawn Zimmer has already announced she will seek reelection in November, her ticket of candidates has yet to be unveiled. The official website currently only names Zimmer and Councilman Ravi Bhalla.
Some believe she is deliberately waiting for opposition to emerge. Reports suggest that Councilman Michael DeFusco may head up the primary anti-Zimmer ticket, and that his ticket could include Councilman David Mello.
Mello, however, said he would not abandon Zimmer or consider another ticket unless Zimmer dumps him.
Some believe this is exactly what Zimmer intends to do, but won’t do it until DeFusco announces his ticket first. This would keep Mello running.
Meanwhile, Freeholder Anthony Romano has yet to say if he will run for mayor once he gets through the primary for freeholder. Some believe his candidacy could hand Zimmer a reelection victory.
Recently, businesswoman Karen Nason announced that she would run for mayor as well, making for a very interesting and complicated mayoral election this year.
A confused situation
The tragic death of Marie Tauro the day before Assembly petition signatures were due to be submitted has put local Republicans in a bind.
Tauro was struck by a hit and run driver while she was on her way to a Republican meeting, and left the Hudson County Republican organization without an official candidate.
While Republican Neil Schuman has also filed to run, he apparently wasn’t the first choice of local party officials.
The Republican nomination will be disputed anyway, since Bayonne’s Michael Alonso has also filed.
The battle will be between Alonso and Schuman, unless Hudson County Republican Party Chairman Jose Arango can get an extension to file another candidate.
Jersey City Democrats revamping party structure.
Mayor Steven Fulop announced this week the filing of 150 new Jersey City Democratic Committee members, representing a robust effort in rebuilding one of the largest municipal democratic organizations in the state.
“During the past few months, we have seen a renewed enthusiasm for getting involved in the political process on a local level,” said Mayor Fulop. “It is encouraging to see so many people recognize the importance of civic involvement. I don’t think we would have seen this type of engagement had it not been for the presidential election in November.”
Rebuilding local democratic parties has become increasingly more important in the wake of the Trump Administration. In Jersey City, widespread concern surrounding destructive federal policies has resulted in a renewed interest in local democratic activism. The Jersey City Democratic Committee has seen an incredible increase in residents who are interested in getting involved in the political process, with 150 new committee members as of yesterday’s filing.
Butchko is back
Jack Butchko, a consultant who has strong ties to Frank Raia in Hoboken and Alonso in Bayonne, is apparently going to return to a national platform shortly.
A longtime political and personal friend of Butchko’s was elected to Congress last November from another state as a Republican. Through the decades, Butchko has been an adviser and consultant to this new member of the House. Look for Butchko to begin making frequent visits to Washington.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org