On Tuesday, Nov. 7, Hoboken residents can vote for a mayor, up to three at-large city council representatives, and three Board of Education members.
Six people are running for mayor, 14 for council, and seven for school board.
Polls open at 6 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. at the roughly 30 polling locations spread throughout the city. To find your polling location go to http://hobokennj.gov/departments/city-clerk/voter-information/.
Deputy City Clerk Jerry Lore said there are 37,281 registered voters in the city, an increase of roughly 2,000 voters from last year’s primary election. According to the Hudson County Clerk’s office, 1,865 residents requested mail-in ballots or absentee ballots – enough to possibly change the outcome, no matter what the machines say on Tuesday. Mail-in ballots are to be used when a resident cannot make it to the polls (or wants to avoid the trip) and instead submits their ballot either via mail or dropoff by Election Day. Well-oiled campaign machines often try to encourage seniors and others to vote this way for their candidate, and some campaigns have been investigated for doing so in questionable ways in past years.
Until four years ago, local elections were held in May, and if no candidates achieved more than 50 percent of the vote, the city would hold a runoff election. Mayor Dawn Zimmer and supporters led a successful referendum five years ago to remove the runoffs. This means that the next mayor could potentially win with less than 17 percent of the vote.
This election may make Hoboken history, as the winner may be the city’s first Sikh, homosexual, or Latino mayor. For that matter, it could be a rare registered Republican.
The mayoral candidates are: Activist Ronald Bautista, At-Large Councilman Ravi Bhalla, 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco, Council President Jen Giattino, business owner Karen Nason, and County Freeholder Anthony Romano.
Hoboken is organized as a mayor-council form of government, in which the mayor acts in an executive role and the council acts in a legislative role. Under state law, the mayor has the duty to enforce the city’s ordinances and state laws, report annually to the council and the public on the state of the city, oversee all city departments, prepare an annual budget and negotiate contracts.
Whoever becomes the next mayor will serve a term of four years and will need to address the city’s aging infrastructure, parking and traffic constraints, and flooding in the mile square city.
Hoboken mayor is a full-time job with a six-figure salary.
To get detailed profiles on the mayoral candidates and learn about their similarities and differences, see this story https://tinyurl.com/y8tpvw37 and other past stories at hudsonreporter.com.
Council slates, and independents
There are 14 council candidates, two of whom — Angelo Valente and Joshua Einstein — are independent of a mayoral slate.
Bhalla’s slate includes incumbent Councilman Jim Doyle and residents Emily Jabbour and John Allen.
DeFusco’s slate includes businessmen Michael Flett and Andrew Impastato, and resident Vanessa Falco.
Giattino’s slate includes zoning board member James Aibel and residents Sal Starace and Jason Ellis.
Romano’s slate includes incumbent Councilman David Mello, and residents Laini Hammond and Charles “Buddy” Matthews.
There are seven Board of Education candidates, one of whom, Patricia Waiters, is running independent of a slate.
Two separate slates are headed up by the two incumbents in the race – Sharyn Angley and Peter Biancamano.
Angley heads up the Hoboken Proud slate, which has been endorsed by mayoral candidates Jen Giattino and Ravi Bhalla. She is running with moms Chetali Khanna and Melanie Tekirian.
Biancamano is running on the Educate/Collaborate slate with mothers Lauren Eagle and Anne Marie Schreiber.
The school board has nine trustees who serve for three-year terms. The board oversees the district’s six public schools, including roughly 1,900 students and a $72 million budget. They also are involved with disbursing charter school funding, although they don’t have direct oversight.
Three board seats are up every three years.
To comment on the election and its outcome, email email@example.com.
Facts and lies in this week’s shady campaign literature
The mayoral candidates got their last few punches in this week ahead of the Tuesday Nov. 7 municipal election, and there were some pretty low blows.
The biggest swipe as of Thursday was an unsigned flyer (in violation of state law) placed on car windshields, depicting one candidate among Godfather-style lettering. The flyer included photos of long-time Hoboken and county politicians, falsely suggested they were all supporters of this candidate, and hinted that their support meant the candidate was part of a crime family.
In an interview last week, candidate Michael DeFusco said, “It’s frustrating and saddening that somebody felt the need to concoct utter lies associating me with people, many people with whom I have relationships but are not part of this campaign. And quite frankly, this is why young people do not get involved in municipal elections, because it is a hate-filled, slanderous realm that turns people off. It’s absolutely absurd, the accusations made in that piece, and I think that Hoboken voters are smart enough to understand this is clearly a last-minute attempt by a desperate opponent.”
He declined to say which of his five opponents he thinks created the flyer.
The flyer includes photos of eight past or current politically involved people in town, all of whom happen to either be people of color or Italian. One of those pictured, former 4th Ward Councilman Chris Campos, was convicted in June, 2017 of conspiracy and bank and wire fraud as part of a $7 million car loan scam– but DeFusco said he’s never spoken to or met him. He said some of the others have supported him, but not all of them.
One person depicted in the flyer, Elaine DePinto, a longtime city employee who’s never run for office, spoke at the council meeting, condemning the flyer. She said she is a supporter of Michael DeFusco, but is a private citizen who has the right to free speech without being dragged into political mailers.
The 73-year-old lifelong resident and former 30-year employee of the city said, “I have the freedom to endorse whoever I want. I understand that politicians have to take their lumps, but I am not a politician. I am a private citizen who has simply voiced my support for Michael DeFusco.”
She said she feels her reputation may be soiled by this flyer and that her 14-year-old granddaughter has seen it and wants to know why her picture was included.
She said, “I have been bullied, I have been called a scumbag, I didn’t do this to be abused.” She said the “scumbag” comment came from an Anthony Romano supporter at a senior citizen luncheon hosted by Freeholder Romano for Columbus Day. She said someone told her it was a private function and she was not invited.
She said the supporter then threatened to call police to have her removed, but Romano let her in.
She added, “You people are bullying a 73-year-old woman. Michael is his own person, and if you are doing this to one of his supporters, I can’t imagine what you do to each other. Shame on every single one of you. There is no decency. The one that did this garbage [flyer] is not going to sit upstairs.”
She said after this election, she will never participate in Hoboken politics.
Meanwhile, Mayor Dawn Zimmer sent an email out to some of her constituents last week in which she blasts mayoral candidate – and former ally until recently — Council President Jen Giattino. Zimmer says she has “sincere concerns about Council President Giattino as a mayoral candidate.” The email states, “Jen, like many of her fellow elected Republicans, does not accept that climate change is a real issue requiring urgent government action.”
The statement was odd, because the week before, she’d mailed a letter with similar accusations, only to have the climate change statement refuted by Giattino in the newspaper over the weekend.
Zimmer’s language was altered in the newer version but she restated her belief about Giattino’s stance of climate change. In her email, Zimmer said she doesn’t believe Giattino will complete Rebuild by Design (a federal flood protection project) and that Giattino had told her that “property owners in the 6th Ward had paid extra to live near a park, and should not have to help pay for what she called ‘a pocket park’ in the Southwest.”
In a follow-up interview, Zimmer said that Giattino’s actions on various environmental issues spoke louder than her words.
She said that during the public process for Rebuild By Design, “When the going got tough, she suggested maybe we let this go.”
She added that Bhalla testified and wrote a letter supporting the project, while Giattino did not.
“Since she was not there when it mattered and this project was at risk, I am concerned about her commitment to advocate strongly for its completion when future challenges arise,” Zimmer said.
Giattino took to Facebook to respond to the mailer and Zimmer’s email.
“As we near Election Day, a certain amount of back-and-forth is expected, but I did not anticipate completely baseless attacks from people I’ve long supported and been supported by,” Giattino wrote. “With these same people and many others, we’ve made progress over the last six years.”
Giattino had supported Zimmer over the last six years, and – along with Bhalla – had almost never publicly criticized her until recently. When asked about this Giattino said that she had kept disagreements private.
Last week, Bhalla’s campaign sent a mailer with a picture of Giattino and a Make America Great Again hat, stating “Trump is a threat to our healthcare, our economy, and our democracy, but Republican Jen Giattino refuses to stand up to him.”
Giattino hesitated early in the campaigns to say for whom she had voted for president last year, and eventually said she’d voted for Gary Johnson. Bhalla has said he will stand up to Trump if need be.
Bhalla’s campaign spokesperson, Rob Horowitz, said last week, “In the era of Trump, it is critical that our local elected officials, no matter their party affiliation, stand up and be counted, speaking up for American values and on key issues that impact Hoboken, such as the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and cuts in federal funding. Ravi Bhalla has and will. Jen Giattino simply hasn’t and won’t.”
Giattino recently said she will stand up to the Trump administration if its policies negatively impact Hoboken residents.
She said she was undecided in this Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, in which current Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Republican, faces Democrat Phil Murphy. Four of the mayoral candidates are publicly supporting Murphy, and Karen Nason has come out for Guadagno.
Look out your window
Often, political campaign workers in Hoboken try to scare residents in the days before the election with mailers full of distortions threats saying a candidate will take away affordable housing if elected. Don’t believe everything you read.
If you see people walking around in the middle of the night distributing anonymous flyers, or engaging in any other illegal activity, call the police. You can also take pictures and send to editorial@Hudsonreporter.com.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.