Hudson County lost a lot of political clout on the state level when Assemblyman Vincent Prieto was dumped as speaker of the State Assembly.
Prieto could possibly lose chairmanship of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. This could be the start of a new political war, similar to one waged in 2007-2008 when Union City Mayor Brian Stack ran a county-wide ticket against HDCO-backed candidates.
Instead of trying to win against the HCDO, it appears the new war will have Stack attempt to take over the HCDO and become the new chairman.
The reorganization of the HCDO will take place after the 2018 Democratic primary in June.
While battle lines haven’t yet been publically drawn, political observers believe that the county is split about evenly between those mayors who support Stack and those who would oppose him.
Stack’s ability to take over the HCDO next June may depend on whether Jason O’Donnell can beat Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis in the 2018 municipal election in May.
O’Donnell would likely support a Stack takeover in exchange for political support in the mayoral fight.
Political strategists are already contemplating whether or not the Davis camp will encourage other alternative candidates to run for mayor, and thereby either split the anti-Davis vote or force a runoff election.
A runoff election would be held a week after the HDCO reorganization meeting, and would allow Davis to vote against Stack.
Davis people, however, say the opposite is true – Davis actually supports Stack. This means that Stack will be named the new HCDO chairman in June unless there is significant dump Stack movement.
Just who the other mayors would support against Stack still remains a mystery, although it is likely some names are already being considered.
Some power brokers would like to see the chairmanship brought back to Jersey City after more a decade.
Former County Executive Robert Janiszewski, who currently teaches as an adjunct professor at a small college in New York State, was the last Jersey City chairman of the HCDO until his arrest for accepting bribes in 2000.
Robert Menendez, when still a member of the House of Representatives, held the post for a while, but relinquished it when he became a U.S. Senator. He is unlikely to want to take the post again.
Mark Smith, while still mayor of Bayonne, served as chairman as well, but lost the seat partly because of political differences with State Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, and opposition by then Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop.
Prieto took over the chairmanship with strong support from Sacco, and has retained it for more than four years. But Sacco appears to have less influence over the HDCO than in the past. While Sacco may ultimately yet decide who gets it, the appointment is usually done by a vote of the mayors of Hudson County towns.
Newly Hoboken Mayor-Elect Ravi Bhalla may well support Stack, since Sacco political operatives were said to be working behind the scenes against him in the last Hoboken municipal election.
Fulop, who has a very good relationship with Stack, would also likely vote to support Stack as the new chairman.
Stack might support Fulop for Sires’ seat
Although Fulop has already endorsed the 2018 reelection of Menendez for U.S. Senate, those close to the newly re-elected mayor say he may be seeking to move on to another office.
Some close to Fulop said he was stunned when a judge declared a mistrial after Menendez was charged with corruption.
Supporters of Fulop have been riding his coattails in hope of his ascending the political ladder to higher office. Many were crushed when he abandoned his aspirations to become governor, and began to view him as a replacement for Menendez if Menendez was convicted.
The mistrial dashed these followers’ hopes and possibly even Fulop’s.
Although Fulop may well keep control of the City Council – depending on the outcome of the runoff on Dec. 5 – some people are already leaving City Hall.
Fulop said he will not seek a third term. So this already suggests that people associated with his administration may be seeking more long term opportunities elsewhere, while they can.
This also may indicate that Fulop might not even serve out his second term. Some observers believe Fulop will run in the June Democratic primary seeking the House of Representatives seat currently occupied by Rep. Albio Sires.
A primary win in Hudson County almost assures Fulop a victory next November, at which point, he would have to step down as mayor. The city council would select an acting mayor – most likely Council President Rolando Lavarro – who would serve until a special election is held in November 2019.
This would become a free for all, and would likely see a host of mayoral candidates such as Lavarro and Freeholder Bill O’Dea, as well as possible candidates such as council members Daniel Rivera and Joyce Watterman.
At that point, state Sen. Sandra Cunningham might consider fulfilling the legacy of her deceased husband, Glenn Cunningham, and seek to become mayor herself.
Bayonne hopeful starts picking ticket
O’Donnell has already announced one council candidate running with him against Davis in May. He apparently has been meeting with a number of people, including current Board of Education trustees as well as former candidates for the board.
Rumors are rampant about who he will pick, but there currently is nothing set in stone.
Davis, meanwhile, has to worry about candidates as well since at least one current council member will not be running and others are considering not running as well.
Davis, however, is expected to have Third Ward Councilman Gary LaPelusa on his ticket.
Troyer will run for council
After being denied a seat on the Secaucus Board of Education in more than five consecutive elections, Tom Troyer said he will run for Town Council instead next November.
A registered Republican, Troyer has unsuccessfully run for higher office several times over the last two decades.
Secaucus has a peculiar election pattern. Unlike Hoboken, where part of the council runs every two years, or Bayonne, where the entire council runs every four years, Secaucus holds municipal elections in back-to-back years, half the council running for four year terms each year.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli swept into office on Nov. 7, carrying all three of his council candidates with him. Next year, the three other council seats are up without a mayoral candidate at the top.
Troyer believes the lack of mayoral candidate at the top gives him an opportunity to steal a seat from Gonnelli.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.