As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
That’s how the upcoming mayoral election looks in Hoboken these days, suggesting it will be a repeat of 2013.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer has already announced she will seek reelection in November. But sources say Councilman Michael DeFusco may run as well. This would mean another three-way race for mayor if Freeholder Anthony Romano decides to run for mayor too.
Many believe Zimmer won reelection in 2013 with the help of a third ticket fronted by then-Councilman Tim Occhipinti, a vote-splitting tactic called “the Hudson County swerve.” Occhipinti and his slate of candidates managed to take just enough votes away from the mayor’s principal opponent, Ruben Ramos Jr., for Zimmer to win without a majority of the total votes cast. Occhipinti siphoned off what are called “Old Hoboken” votes that would have gone to Ramos if it had been a two-way race between him and Zimmer.
While DeFusco appears to be one of the upcoming stars on the Hoboken political scene, people supporting Romano believe his entry into the race will hurt Zimmer this time and could result in an upset win for Romano.
Wild rumors are already circulating about the race, like one suggesting that Phil Murphy, candidate in the Democratic primary for governor, might back DeFusco. This apparently is not the case. Zimmer was an early supporter of Murphy, far ahead of most the army of politicians that have since climbed onto the Murphy bandwagon.
Another rumor suggested Romano has met with DeFusco about possibly forming some kind of joint ticket. Romano says no such meeting took place.
Romano said he is putting his election team together for freeholder. He will run in the June primary, and after that he’ll decide if he will run for mayor.
Not a third ticket, but a contingency plan
But others claim the DeFusco ticket isn’t a third ticket at all, but an insurance policy to make sure that there is an opposition candidate against Zimmer if Romano decides not to run.
“It’s a contingency plan,” one insider said.
The problem is that the filing deadline for mayor is the same day as the June freeholder primary. So Romano would have to file for mayor before he actually knows if he won the nomination for freeholder. If he wins the primary – which would be likely, since Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) will likely allow him to run on the Democratic line – he would then have to choose whether he will run for freeholder in November or for mayor. If he runs for mayor, the HCDO then would have to scramble to find another candidate to run for freeholder in his place.
County Democrats are apparently willing to flout tradition and support him for freeholder even if Zimmer supports someone else in the primary. But the county political people will not openly support him if he runs for mayor.
Some say the DeFusco plan is the brainchild of three council members: Ramos, David Mello, and Michael Russo. Since DeFusco was a close associate of former Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons he has strong ties to the Old Hoboken vote, yet also can bridge the gap with newer Hoboken voters. This makes him a powerful candidate against Zimmer in a two-way race.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop was invited to a DeFusco fundraiser this week, but supposedly backed out the last minute. Some believe this was due to pressure from Zimmer.
Nightmare in Bayonne Board of Education
Reports suggest that the Bayonne school district may be as much as $5 million in the red, not the originally estimated $2 million. This appears to be sending novice Board of Education members for cover, since any fix would certainly mean laying off teachers. The additional shortage appears to be a result of the recently-settled contract with the teachers.
Several sources say that the board asked the superintendent of schools to come up with a plan of cuts that would fill the budget gap, then balked at the plan presented. Apparently, a fix would require as many as 30 teachers to be laid off, demotions of up to 14 administrators (mostly vice principals) and the cutting of after-school sports programs.
This comes at a politically inconvenient time, since some board members may be looking to run for City Council next year. Disastrous cuts to school faculty and programs could wreck throw a knee-block on their ambitions.
On top of this, the board’s rumored plan for Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan to retire early may also have gone awry. The district has already decided not to renew her contract when it expires in June. But some board members apparently want her to leave early so that the board can install an interim superintendent until they could conduct a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.
McGeehan has apparently hired attorney Kevin Marino, a high profile attorney who previously represented Bill Stepien, someone named but not charged in connection with the Bridgegate scandal. Stepien has recently been retained for a position in President-Elect Donald Trump’s administration in Washington.
Joe Cryan is back
Once one of the most powerful people in the state Assembly, Joe Cryan of Union County, may soon rejoin the state legislature as a state senator. He has been cooling his heels as the Union County sheriff. But he misses the State House action and being involved in crafting legislation.
Riding the Murphy tide, Cryan is getting endorsements and support from such wide-ranging groups that he appears to be on the way back.
“He has a lot of union support,” said one source.
Cryan’s comeback was partly made possible when Fulop dropped out of the race for governor and many county organizations around the state started supporting Murphy.
The problem is that Union County could not endorse Murphy, because their state senator, Ray Lesniak, had not made up his mind if he will run for governor, too.
Last week, Lesniak said he would not seek re-election as state senator and would take the plunge in the primary against Murphy for governor. This cleared the way for Cryan to run to fill the senate seat vacated by Lesniak.
This leaves Murphy, Lesniak and John Wisniewski seeking the Democratic nomination. One of the leading Republican gubernatorial candidates is entrepreneur Jack Ciattarelli.