DeFusco makes his move

Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco made his run for mayor official last week, ending months of speculation. The move starts the campaign clock ticking and raises a number of issues: Will born-and-raised Hoboken residents unite behind his ticket? Or will opposition to Mayor Dawn Zimmer be shattered as it was in 2013, allowing her to retain her seat?

To date, Zimmer is being challenged by businesswoman Karen Nason and DeFusco, although Freeholder Anthony Romano is still considering running. Romano is running unopposed in the June Democratic primary to retain his freeholder seat. If he chooses to run for mayor, he would also run for freeholder in the general election at the same time, and would then choose which seat he would accept if victorious in both. Opponents of Zimmer in and outside of Hoboken believe Romano’s presence in the mayoral race would divide the opposition and guarantee Zimmer victory.

Some of those who support DeFusco are extremely critical of Zimmer’s policies toward local business and development, believing the city needs to be open for reasonable development and should embrace local business and reduce red tape for obtaining approvals.

Many believe that in a two-way race, DeFusco can beat Zimmer, because he draws from both old time Hoboken and newcomers. But if the field is wider, all bets are off.

Fulop being pushed away from Kushners

Opponents of Donald Trump in Ward E in Jersey City appear to be winning a tug-of-war that has Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop caught in the middle.

Critics of Trump’s policies want Fulop to distance himself from Jared Kushner, whose family members have a number of significant developments in the Journal Square area.

Charles Kushner, Jared’s father, and Murray Kushner and son Jonathan have traditionally been strong supporters of Democrats. Jonathan (Jared’s cousin) is a childhood friend of Fulop, who has embraced a number of Kushner projects in the city since taking office in 2013.

Jared Kushner is the son-in-law of Trump, and took a senior position in the Trump administration earlier this year. Although Jared has reportedly stepped away from his business interests, his sister recently raised hackles of Trump opponents inside and outside the city when she sought to get Chinese funding for a project in Journal Square by suggesting the Kushner connection to the administration would ease the process of obtaining visas for the Chinese financiers.

Fulop withdrew his support for a tax abatement for a Kushner Companies project called One Journal Square, although it will be up to the City Council whether or not to approve the abatement.

Kushner Companies helped build Trump Bay, and Jared has had a large say in helping broker other family deals.

Although Fulop opponents claim Jared Kushner gave hefty donations to Fulop, his company actually donated to a super PAC but never directly. The company also gave a $100,000 donation to a not-for-profit organization. Jared’s sister contributed to the Hudson County Democratic Organization – the same sister who petitioned for Chinese investment in One Journal Square, a project that Fulop once touted as important for the revitalization of that part of the city.

This conflict could figure significantly in the Ward E race, an area where Fulop needs strong support to win reelection. James Solomon, an open critic of Kushners, may seek the Ward E seat. Michael Billy, an important activist for LGBTQ rights, is also seeking the Ward E seat.

With Nicholas Grillo already seen as a strong candidate in the ward, it may not be long before incumbent councilwoman Candice Osborne withdraws – although Osborne said any report of her withdrawal is premature.

This political suspense also comes at a time when Fulop may be backing down from some of his other signature programs.

The mayor is expected ask the City Council to repeal the ban against chain stores downtown. The city opted in 2014 to restrict chain stores on abated property or those in a redevelopment zone to protect small businesses.

Alligatorgate?

Watergate is being mentioned a lot these days on the national level in regards to the Trump administration and its firing of the FBI director. Watergate refers to the break-in by employees of President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign of the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel prior to the 1972 presidential election, and the ensuing scandal that eventually led to the president’s resignation.

The term has become synonymous with political scandals, most recently the one in which close associates of Gov. Christopher Christie orchestrated the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge in payback against the Fort Lee mayor’s failure to endorse the reelection of Gov. Christie in 2012 (Bridgegate).

These scandals usually give clout to political opponents who are able to ride the headlines.

In Secaucus, some people are using the term “Alligatorgate” to refer to the recent sighting of an alligator in the town Duck Pond days before the kids’ fishing derby. Some have criticized the fact that Mayor Michael Gonnelli did not warn anyone about the sighting.

Department of Public Works employees scoured the pond in search of the elusive gator two days before the event.

Gonnelli will likely escape any kind of political backlash since it is unlikely he or his candidates for Town Council will face opposition this fall.

“I heard about it two weeks ago, but I thought the guy who called me was drunk,” said Tom Troyer, a long time political opponent of Gonnelli. “I don’t know if there are any alligators in Secaucus, but there are barracudas. Gonnelli is one.”

Although quick to take a jab at Mayor Gonnelli, Troyer has yet to make up his mind as to whether he will seek public office this year. Over the last several years, he has unsuccessfully run for school board. He had offered to run for council on a Democratic ticket, but the ticket has failed to materialize.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.

Meanwhile, the alligator, whose existence Gonnelli has documented in a photo he posted on Facebook recently, apparently has found a home in Secaucus.

Davis situation

Political opponents of Bayonne Mayor James Davis appear to have orchestrated the outing of the latest scandal against the mayor, alleging that prior to his becoming mayor, he sent texts to a then-town employee that had explicit sexual content. This alleged scandal was a long time in developing, and some political observers claim it was designed to force Davis to resign.

“Nobody actually wanted this to come out in public,” said one source close to Davis. “This was supposed to be a threat to release if Davis didn’t step down.”

How close Davis has come to resigning is questionable, although those very close to him hae apparently urged him to remain in office.

At this point, no charges have been filed, which is why the whole thing smells of political manipulation, and why the press was initially reluctant to take it on. Even some Davis critics are a little uncomfortable about commenting on allegations made without formal charges being filed, something the accuser claims is imminent.

Since the texting happened prior to Davis’ taking over, there is little anyone can do to remove him, and many of his close associates are urging him to let the matter play out, since the worst damage has already been done.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com