HOBOKEN–Hoboken mayoral candidate and current City Council President Jen Giattino, a registered Republican, said last weekend during a mayoral debate hosted by Hudson County View that she is “undecided” on who she intends to vote for in the upcoming gubernatorial race. “Regardless of who’s governor, Republican or Democrat, I will work with anyone,” she said.
The stance may seem surprising, as one of the two gubernatorial candidates, Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, was accused of potentially withholding Hurricane Sandy relief funds for Hoboken by Giattino’s former ally, Mayor Dawn Zimmer, in a 2014 controversy that made national news. At the time the news broke, Giattino was an ally of Zimmer on the City Council.
Lt. Gov. Guadagno faces Democrat Phil Murphy for the seat in the November 7 race.
In 2014, Zimmer alleged that Christie administration members, including Guadagno, implied that the city’s Hurricane Sandy relief might be contingent on Zimmer making sure zoning laws allowed the Rockefeller Group to expedite a development project in northern Hoboken.The law firm representing the developer was founded by David Samson, whom Christie had named chairman of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2010.
During the time, Zimmer wrote in her diary that Christie and others were apparently cut from the same “corrupt cloth” that she’d been fighting in Hoboken.
In May of 2015, federal prosecutors issued a letter stating Christie’s administration was cleared of any wrongdoing in relation to Zimmer’s allegations.
Giattino is a registered Republican, a rarity among officials in this heavily Democratic town. Earlier this summer, she declined to respond when asked if she had voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election last year, then later said she had voted for Gary Johnson.
She has argued that party politics aren’t important in a non-partisan Hoboken election. One of her main opponents in the race, Democrat and Councilman Ravi Bhalla, has made a point of saying he will stand up to Trump if elected mayor. When asked last month, Giattino has said that she will stand up to Trump if it turns out at some point that his policies negatively affect Hoboken residents.
Mayor Zimmer has been vocal in saying she believes the Trump administration’s existing policies about climate change and immigration could negatively affect the area’s residents.
Giattino has been getting statewide Republican support for her candidacy, including donations from Gov. Chris Christie’s brother Todd Christie, who gave a total of $2,000 to Team Giattino, according to ELEC reports.
When asked about this on Wednesday, Giattino said that she has known Todd Christie and his wife since working at the New York Stock Exchange. “I have probably known him 25 years, long before his brother was probably in politics,” said Giattino. “He donated to me last time as well.” (During her last run, she was endorsed by Zimmer. Zimmer also had been close with Christie politically until the 2014 issue.)
Giattino’s lack of an endorsement in the governor’s race has led some to believe she is concerned about alienating Hoboken voters from either party just before the heated local election, in which six candidates are running for mayor.
Giattino said this is not the case, but rather, she will have to work with whoever becomes the next governor, particularly on programs for the needy.
“Mayor Zimmer is a very smart woman,” she said. “Four years ago, she didn’t endorse [a gubernatorial candidate] so she wouldn’t risk alienating the next governor. I will follow her lead. But what I will add to that is that there are some programs in Hoboken that I am concerned about their funding, and I will make my decision based on them. Like Hoboken Family Planning and the homeless shelter. My personal decision, I will base on that.”
When asked if Giattino believed Zimmer’s account of the conversation with Guadagno that became the subject of controversy, she said, “‘I am not going to weigh in. I’ve never had a conversation with the mayor about it. The only thing I know is what everyone else knows.” She said she first heard about it on the news.
The other mayoral candidates stated for whom they would vote, during the debate. Councilmen Ravi Bhalla and Michael DeFusco, Freeholder Anthony Romano, and activist Ronald Bautista said they will vote for Phil Murphy and business owner Karen Nason said she will vote for Guadagno.
To read about that past scandal and about the ongoing mayoral campaigns, use the search bar at hudsonreporter.com.