Those close to the campaign of Hoboken mayoral hopeful Anthony Romano claim leaked poll numbers showing him closing in on front runner Ravi Bhalla are accurate.
The poll essentially claims that Romano is within two percentage points of Bhalla, with Jen Giattino four points behind Romano, and Michael DeFusco, six points behind Giattino. Karen Nason and Ronald Bautista did not apparently figure into the poll.
If accurate, this would reverse the commonly held belief that DeFusco, not Romano, was the lead contender against Bhalla.
This would also explain the increase in negative campaign literature against Bhalla.
While polls don’t vote any more than campaign signs do, they can show trends.
The poll, however, showed that there are apparently still undecided voters to be had if candidates know how to reach them.
Those close to Giattino believe she is in a good position to win the election, having distanced herself from former Mayor Dawn Zimmer. They believe she is still able to appeal to Zimmer’s reformer voter base.
The fact is the political landscape is so fractured that anyone, even Nason or Bautista, has a chance.
In 2013, Zimmer successfully won reelection because the Old Hoboken voters were split between Ruben Ramos and Tim Occhipinti. Some believe that Occhipinti was encouraged to run by Zimmer’s camp.
In 2017, both camps are divided, with the four leading candidates taking their share of the vote. Since Zimmer destroyed the runoff system as part of her power grab in 2013, anyone can win this year by the slimmest major, even by one vote.
Since Bhalla was endorsed by Zimmer, theoretically he inherits a larger portion of Zimmer’s vote. But the problem is that Giattino is also a reformer, and is backed by two other reformer council members, Tiffanie Fisher and Peter Cunningham. In the past, many believed that Zimmer’s popularity also carried her council candidates in each election. This is a test to see if Giattino, Fisher and Cunningham have their own voting base and how many Zimmer votes will Giattino siphon from Bhalla.
Prior to Zimmer’s unexpected announcement last summer that she would not seek reelection, DeFusco was seen her chief challenger, supported then by a majority of Old Hoboken as well as a significant portion of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO.) DeFusco was seen at the time as someone who could also draw some Zimmer votes. There was significant pressure from the HCDO to discourage Romano from seeking the mayoral seat.
Everything changed after Zimmer withdrew. Councilman Michael Russo threw his support behind Romano, and a sizable portion of the HCDO switched its allegiance to Romano as well.
Russo brings to Romano a solid voting block in the Third Ward, and possibly a number of votes from the 4th Ward. Terri Castellano, the First Ward councilwoman DeFusco beat two years ago, has also thrown her support behind Romano.
Thanks to Ramos, DeFusco will have a portion of the Fourth Ward voting base, and perhaps some of the newcomer Zimmer vote. But his victory over Castellano in 2015 had as much to do with campaigning by Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro and her husband as it did to the efforts of DeFusco, and this year those efforts could well be on the behalf of Bhalla, not DeFusco.
The election will hinge largely on how many votes can Giattino drain from Bhalla, and whether or not Romano can assemble enough votes to keep the race close. And with both reformers and Old Hoboken divided, will it be possible for the other candidates to pull off an upset?
A dark horse in the at-large council race may be Angelo Valente, the longtime executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and a former Hoboken councilman. His name recognition may well allow him to win over other proposed at-large candidates.
Bayonne fundraisers suggest tight race
Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis and former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell both held public events last week.
The long-anticipated announcement that O’Donnell would seek to unseat Davis in the May 2018 election drew a packed crowd at the Knights of Columbus hall.
Davis, meanwhile, held a fundraiser at the Chandelier catering hall uptown that also drew a crowd.
While some of the same people showed up for both events, in most part, the two events symbolize the sharp divide in Bayonne.
Davis’s victory over incumbent Mark Smith in 2014 had relied on a unique coalition of organizations that included teachers bitter over an unsettled contract, other angry people who saw themselves excluded from the political process under Smith, as well as groups advocating for maintaining of rent control. Outside political forces had also intervened on Davis’ behalf, in some cases inspired by missteps Smith had made when he served as chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
The 2018 election may well seem like a mirror image of the 2014 election with many of those who were against Smith backing O’Donnell instead.
O’Donnell was a key member of the Smith administration, and so will draw from many of those who supported Smith in 2014. But he has also inherited a number of former Davis supporters that felt betrayed by Davis for not getting the jobs they thought they would get. Political players from outside Bayonne are expected again to take sides for and against Davis.
Some local political observers see the upcoming Board of Education election as a test of Davis’ political ability. Independents claim that political forces connected to Davis are seeking to secure a voting majority on the board. The upcoming board would not only decide who the next superintendent of Bayonne schools will be, but would also be involved with teachers’ contract negotiations. In the past, the schools have been the source of the most political patronage in the town, generating jobs for those loyal to the administration. Independent candidates – some of whom may support O’Donnell – are wary of a return to that era of patronage.
Governor’s debate a toss up
For many people who watched the debate between Kim Guadagno, the GOP candidate for governor, and Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate, the televised debate held last week was a tossup. Most people viewed the winner as the person that most agreed with their philosophy. But for some political observers, the debate showed Guadagno to be a much more likeable candidate than Murphy. Although clearly the product of spin doctors, Guadagno sounded reasonable and rational, while Murphy sounded angry and to some degree lacked focus.
The real danger for Murphy, however, isn’t how reasonable Guadagno seems, but whether or not Democratic voters in places like Hudson County will take his victory for granted and stay home on election day. But with all the political rhetoric expended by his campaign, Murphy will be hard pressed to convince his voting base that the election may be very, very close.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.