Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco’s call for an investigation into the source of a racist midnight flyer allegedly issued by his campaign that appeared around town a few days before the mayoral election misses the point. DeFusco blames the flyer for his loss in the race.
The flyer was aimed at Councilman Ravi Bhalla, the victor in the mayoral race.
Although there has been a lot of finger-pointing, DeFusco seems to think people blame his campaign for the flyer. He is demanding to find out who actually distributed it. The Police Department is apparently investigating the flyer distribution as a potential hate crime.
Rumors suggest that the police may have talked to one or more of five people they suspect distributed the flyers, but the police have denied it. As in past elections, the culprits will likely never be apprehended.
Many believe that the flyer produced a sympathy vote for Bhalla. The truth is, the flyer didn’t win the election for Bhalla, Anthony Romano did.
Romano split the Old Hoboken vote the same way Tim Occhipinti did in 2013. This, combined with Councilwoman Jen Giattino’s drawing newcomer votes away from DeFusco steered the election to Bhalla.
Giattino’s people aren’t happy either. They wonder if some kind of deal was struck between Romano and Bhalla, the way some suspect Occhipinti did in 2013 to allow Dawn Zimmer to win reelection as mayor with far less than 50 percent of the vote.
Although Romano supporters deny any such deal, those raising the issue are looking ahead to when Bhalla picks his director of the Office of Emergency Management. Will Romano be named to the post? Stay tuned.
West New York candidates screaming foul
Official results from the Hudson County Clerk’s office show that the winning three candidates in West New York’s school board election were Maite Fernandez (1,952), Damarys Gonzalez (1,897) and Jose Mendoza (1,873). For each candidate, more than one third of their votes (at least 650 votes per candidate) came from mail-in ballots. This seems like an extraordinarily high volume of mail-ins, both as a percentage of the total, and in terms of the absolute number.
Critics compared the amount of mail-in ballots to recent history in West New York and found that this team received more mail-in ballots than Hillary Clinton did in the 2016 presidential election, despite a much lower turnout on Nov. 7.
This is hardly a smoking gun, and suggests that the candidates have finally learned the fine art of steering votes to a particular candidate. Vote-by-mail strategies have long been in use elsewhere in Hudson County, in particular in Hoboken, where in 2009, some of these became the deciding votes that helped Peter Cammarano (briefly) become mayor.
The West New York Board of Education election was a tough one, full of dirty tricks. But usually, someone finds wrongdoing based on the fact that they have a witness or two to suggest they have been strong armed into voting for a certain candidate. At times, people might even find that rules for handling absentee ballots were violated, voiding those ballots. At best, an investigation will involve county election officials interviewing all those who cast such ballots to determine whom they voted for.
The three winning candidates in the election reportedly worked hard in the two-month election cycle and spent a lot of time knocking on doors. The fact that they were clever enough to use vote-by-mail to make sure people voted is not a crime.
What’s in an endorsement?
Although vote-by-mail in Bayonne’s Board of Education election did not change the final outcome as to who won, it did change the order of runners up.
Mayor Jimmy Davis and Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti endorsed Gene Perry, Rev Dorothy Patterson, and Maria Valado, much to the criticism of other candidates. The implication is that Davis and Chiaravalloti wanted to control the board.
Ultimately, Valado won. But voting machine counts showed that Patterson and Perry finished deeper down in the pack of also-rans. This changed when the vote-by-mail was counted, and both Patterson and Perry came in behind their running mates. This suggests that the endorsements had power, as well as the savvy to use vote by mail to guarantee where votes would be cast.
Jersey City council runoffs
Four of the six ward council seats will be decided by runoff elections on Dec. 5. At stake will be control of the City Council for Mayor Steven Fulop. Candidates he supported in the first round of elections were ahead in Ward A and B.
Among Fulop’s antagonists on the council, Michael Yun won his seat outright in Ward D. Councilman Richard Boggiano came up short, obtaining about 42 percent of the vote in Ward D. Most expect him to win the runoff.
All three Fulop-supported at-large candidates won on Nov. 7. So did Jermaine Robinson in Ward F. Fulop needs one of the two candidates in either Ward A or Ward B to keep the majority.
Even then, Ward E appears to be the most interesting race. It pits James Solomon against Rebecca Symes, two candidates that came within spitting distance of each other in the first round of elections.
Symes is backed by a formidable group of developers and property owners, as well as outgoing Ward E Councilwoman Candace Osborne.
Solomon, who is a political maverick, draws heavily on many of the grass roots progressives in Ward E, but he will need to gather many of the votes cast for other candidates in the first round if he hopes to beat Symes.
Troubles with county election results
Hudson County Clerk-elect Junior Maldonado says he will upgrade the county election website, which often gives live election results, to make certain that problems that occurred on Nov. 7 will not occur again. He said the system had “a glitch” that would be fixed.
Election night winners were not posted in a timely manner, and it was through the diligence of The Hoboken Reporter behind the scenes that Bhalla was confirmed as the winner in that town. This was a national scoop that resulted in 1.35 million hits for The Reporter’s Tweet of the news and posts on hudsonreporter.com (follow @hudson_reporter on Twitter).
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.