Former state Sen. Bernard Kenny once pointed out that every election is actually two elections: what happens leading up to Election Day, and Election Day itself. The campaigns raise issues, but Election Day is about getting out the vote.
The first part of his election cycle in Hoboken has actually been going on since Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced in May that she would not seek reelection. The six mayoral candidates began to position themselves at that point, trying to make themselves stand out from the rest.
Zimmer has endorsed Council President Ravi Bhalla as her replacement. This has left 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino, also a past Zimmer ally, in the position of having to show why she is the better reform candidate. Giattino, who has been on the council for six years, has been criticized for not standing up against Zimmer earlier. But this may be unfair since Giattino and others on the Zimmer team needed to show unity and express support for the mayor on whose ticket they ran.
It was clear that Giattino and others were opposing Zimmer as early as last January when they refused to vote for Bhalla as council president. Giattino’s naming instead put her in the position of the leading anti-Zimmer council person while still within the Zimmer council faction.
Giattino’s biggest challenge in this election is not differences in philosophy from Bhalla, but more practical – get out the vote on Election Day.
Challengers such as Freeholder Anthony Romano and Michael DeFusco have huge advantages when it comes to this. In the past, Zimmer has been able to put on the street an army of diehard supporters, who work polling places and go door to door to get people to come out to vote. Bhalla will inherit much of this.
DeFusco, who has built a significant war chest, can hire an army of his own to supplement the support he will get from 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos.
Romano, who has strong union support, is not quite as wealthy as Bhalla or DeFusco, but still will have an army of his own on the streets on Election Day.
With less funding and much of the Zimmer support apparently going to Bhalla, Giattino has to somehow find an army of her own. Social media may figure prominently in her campaign. But this is not the same as having someone come to a voter’s door or helping residents put together vote-by-mail forms.
Petition signatures for Bayonne referendum challenged
Those supporting a referendum in Bayonne that would require the city to enforce its resident-only hiring restrictions for city employees feel confident they will obtain enough petition signatures to have it on the ballot in November.
But this comes after some Democrats in Jersey City have asked for an examination of petition signatures raised for candidates there. Apparently some of the same people gathering signatures for the Bayonne referendum also collected signatures for at least one council race – in particular the campaign for former Assemblyman Charles Mainor.
Although some predicted Mainor capable of winning his Ward A race for council, he withdrew his name from consideration at the last minute.
Democrats associated with Mayor Steven Fulop apparently moved to challenge Mainor’s petition signatures, and he would not have had enough time to correct any possible errors found.
A similar challenge is being waged in Bayonne by some Jersey City officials who are supporting Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, in order to avoid the referendum from getting on the ballot.
Supporters of the referendum submitted 1,380 signatures, many of which were rejected by the Bayonne city clerk. They are scrambling to collect 250 additional signatures needed to qualify the referendum for the ballot.
“We’re going door to door,” one of the supporters said.
The referendum would require the city to honor a 1991 ordinance that required city workers to live in the city of Bayonne. Several city department directors do not. But the move is actually an attempt to target Business Administrator Joe DeMarco, who has been the target of anti-Davis people since Davis hired him after winning as mayor in 2014. Many of those supporting the referendum previously supported Davis, but broke away over the DeMarco hiring.
Who will challenge Davis in Bayonne?
Davis is running for reelection as mayor despite recent media reports of a sexting scandal that surfaced previously last summer.
“Jimmy’s holding a fundraiser next week,” one of his supporters said.
Davis allegedly continued a texting relationship with a city employee, who later became embittered with him.
Opponents expected the scandal to force Davis to resign or not seek reelection. Names such as Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti or former 3rd Ward Councilman Ray Greaves became rumored as possible replacements. Chiaravalloti however, disputed this claim.
As of mid-September, possible challengers to Davis have yet to emerge – although the most likely name is former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell.
Oddly enough, those most strongly supporting O’Donnell these days are those who strongly opposed him when O’Donnell served in the inner political circle of former Mayor Mark Smith.
Who will control the council in Jersey City?
No matter which of the two candidates for mayor wins in Jersey City in November, the real challenge will be control of the City Council.
Fulop is seeking reelection as mayor and is being challenged by former Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis.
Unlike Hoboken or Secaucus, where only part of the elected government is up for election in November, all the council seats as well as the mayor’s seat are up for grabs. This means a potentially dramatic change in the face of government.
Most believe that Fulop has the potential to retain control of the council if he is reelected, but it will be by a narrow margin if he does.
On the other hand, if Matsikoudis wins, he also could face a hostile council if candidates loyal to Fulop win.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.