Up for grabs in Hoboken

Physics tells us: nature abhors a vacuum.
Over the last two weeks since Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer declared she will not seek reelection in November, we learned politics also abhors a vacuum as well.
Everybody who’s anybody is leaping into the mayoral race with both feet.
Perhaps for the first time, the municipal election will veer from its predictable course of “Old Hoboken” vs. “New Hoboken,” which has defined elections in the past.
Rumored for well-over a year, the Zimmer announcement still came as a surprise to many, including some of her closest political allies. Some of Zimmer’s supporters actually thought the report was a joke when first revealed.
But it is no joke for the so-called reformers, because they may have to choose between alternative candidates, leaving a very big opportunity for a major change.
Zimmer has publicly endorsed Councilman Ravi Bhalla, her closest ally. But not everybody is happy about that.
City Council President Jen Giattino threw her hat into the ring, which will split the reformer vote.
Needless to say, she has already received backlash over the fact that she is or was a registered Republican. She declined to comment publicly on our cover story last week.
“Old Hoboken” is in no better shape since it will also see a split. Councilman Michael DeFusco currently appears to have the support of both newcomers as well born-and-raised. Some believe his campaign will likely see support from the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
This would be a significant blow to Freeholder Anthony Romano, who also announced that he would run for mayor.
Behind the scenes, HCDO people had been trying to talk Romano out of running for mayor even before Zimmer’s withdrawal.
Like DeFusco, Karen Nason, a local business owner, declared before Zimmer’s withdrawal. But it is difficult to say from where she will get her support.
Other candidates who said they’ll be running for mayor include Roland Batitista and Angelo Valente.
Valente, however, has the potential to upset the race in a number of ways. He has deep roots in Old Hoboken, and has the potential to steal some DeFusco and Romano supporters. He also have significant connections to state GOP, giving him out of town clout.
Four years ago, Zimmer won re-election with less than 50 percent of the overall vote through a clever manipulation of the system. She convinced local voters to approve a referendum that not only moved the municipal election to November, but did away with the runoffs that would have pitted the top two vote-getters against each other in a second election if no one got more than 50 percent of the vote.
That change to the process, along with the still suspect appearance of a third party candidate back then, allowed the Old Hoboken vote to get split, and allowed Zimmer to squeak back into office with about 43 percent of the total vote.
The lack of runoff could work against reform candidates this year and will allow any candidate with the most votes to win.
But Hoboken could also become a countywide battle ground.
Prior to Zimmer’s announcement, State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack had endorsed her reelection. HCDO support for DeFusco would likely mean that state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco would be working on his behalf. To counter this, other candidates such as Romano, Giattino, and Bhalla may seek support from Stack. This has the potential to rekindle the Sacco-Stack political wars of the past.
The one thing nearly all the current candidates fear is a reappearance by former council member Beth Mason on the scene. She typically spends a lot of money on campaigns, so not only could she raise the cost of the election, but she also has the potential of luring Stack support away from other candidates.

Jersey City madhouse

Although Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is running for reelection, rumors continue to circulate that he is on the short list to replace U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, if and when Menendez is forced to resign.
Menendez is scheduled to go to trial on corruption charges in September. But sources claim his defense team is trying to postpone the trial until early 2018.
This could benefit himself as well as the Democratic Party if Democratic candidate for governor Phil Murphy successful beats Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in November.
If Menendez steps down prior to the end of this year, then Republican Gov. Christopher Christie would name a temporary replacement until a special election can be held in Nov. 2018.
Christie could even name himself.
If Murphy is elected, he would undoubtedly appoint a Democrat to replace Menendez.
Some of Fulop’s key people are hoping Fulop will get the nod. This would make up for the slight they felt when Fulop bowed out of the governor’s race last October.
Some political observers believe that any new Democratic U.S. Senator will come from southern New Jersey – if not State Senator President Steve Sweeney, then someone named by political boss, George Norcross.
Sweeney gained significant stature this week when he became the voice of reason in a fight between Christie and State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. Christie managed to shut down state parks and beaches for most of the Fourth of July weekend in a fight over the state budget. Christie used the budget fight in an attempt to control where surplus funds from a semi-public Horizon Blue Cross program went.
Christie had moral high ground until he arrogantly planted himself on a state beach nobody else could use and was photographed doing so. While all sides claimed victory in a compromise, Sweeney appears to have become the big victor. The big loser is Prieto, who appears to have backed another losing cause and will likely lose his speakership on this account.

Fulop and Matsikoudis will battle it out

Fulop is currently being challenged by Bill Matsikoudis and former Assemblyman Charles Mainor for mayor.
Matsikoudis has been a very vocal critic of the Fulop Administration, and will likely benefit from some of the negative blowback expected as a result of the ongoing property reevaluation.
Both candidates have been introducing new council candidates, although Fulop is expected not to endorse a candidate in Ward E, where five candidates are running.
Council President Ronaldo Lavarro will serve as president for an additional six months as a result of a council vote last week.
The additional six months was required because the city changed its municipal elections from May to November.
Lavarro, who is running on Fulop’s ticket and is a Filipino-American, was the subject of a rumor that suggested he would run for Ward B seat rather than at large – because he has a strong Filipino voting base in Ward B. But apparent, he will be running at large the way he did in 2013.

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.