If there is one thing evident from the Dec. 5 Jersey City runoff election, it’s that people in Ward E are clearly unhappy with Mayor Steven Fulop, their former councilman. In what many consider a stunning upset, James Solomon beat Rebecca Symes.
Although Fulop did not endorse a candidate in the regular Nov. 7 election or in the runoff, nearly all of the candidates that ran on his ticket, including outgoing Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne, endorsed Symes. She was also endorsed by Nicholas Grillo, who was an unsuccessful candidate for Ward E on Nov. 5.
Symes’ campaign also had the benefit of public relations from the high profile Vision Media, a firm connected to the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
“The county appears to have supported her,” said one political observer. “But in Ward E, county support can be the kiss of death.”
While Fulop still retains a 6-3 majority on the council, the loss of Ward E is symbolic, since he served as Ward E councilman prior to becoming mayor, and Osborne, who declined to run for reelection, was seen as an important Fulop ally on the council.
Symes, however, was saddled with a somewhat unfair presumption that she was too closely associated with developers and real estate interests, a theme that has significant impact for a number of tenants who are being priced out in the downtown area. But Symes should have seen strong support from the waterfront area, which did not happen.
Overly-optimistic Fulop supporters had predicted a sweep of all four contested runoff council seats, while more realistic Fulop people saw that John Hanussak’s challenge against incumbent Richard Boggiano in Ward C would be a tough battle. Boggiano won, but Hanussak as a political newcomer did surprisingly well.
But nearly all presumed Ward E would go to Symes, and the loss put something of a damper on an otherwise cheerful post election celebration at Zeppelin Hall.
Many of the anti-Fulop people were stung by the loss of Incumbent Chris Gadsden to Mira Prinz-Arey in Ward B, although it was clear during both elections the Prinz-Arey was well funded and there was an army of paid campaign workers on the streets to get the vote out.
While Fulop still holds a majority on the council, some political observers said the three opposition council members are going to make council meetings contentious.
“They might not be able to beat Fulop’s agenda,” one observer said. “But you can be sure, the opposition will talk every issue to death.”
Stack is the one
State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack appears to be destined to become chairman of the HCDO, the countywide Democratic organization.
Last week, this column reported the potential of a political war for control with Bayonne Mayor James Davis as possibly opposed to Stack.
Davis supporters not only claim that Davis is supporting Stack, but that there is little opposition countywide.
There is some irony in this, since Stack has historically been seen as a political outsider and often opposed by the HCDO in the past.
The question will be whether or not state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco – who has largely controlled the HCDO through surrogates over the last decade – will support or at best not oppose the naming of Stack.
While Stack and Sacco smoked the peace pipe a few years ago, most believe it is an uncomfortable truce, with the potential for something small to get them at each other’s throats again.
Many credit Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise with playing the role of peacemaker. But some believe DeGise may step down as county executive and the more contentious Jersey City Freeholder Bill O’Dea will take his place.
Not everybody in the Sacco camp trusts O’Dea, since O’Dea has the reputation of being a political maverick.
Short list for Jersey City police chief
Edgar Martinez, police captain in the Heights section of Jersey City, is seen as one of four possible choices to become the next police chief.
Martinez is said to be on the short list along with Captain Mike Kelly on the West District, and two others.
Appointing a Latino as new chief would give Fulop huge political benefits.
Martinez, if named, would be the city’s first Latino police chief in a city that has a huge Latino population. This appointment would come at a time early next year when Fulop is expected to challenge Rep. Albio Sires (a Cuban-American) in the primary for the House of Representatives.
This move might also mollify U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who vowed to get even with people like Fulop, who appeared to be taking advantage of his legal problems to steal his senate seat.
A mistrial was recently declared in a case that charged Menendez with alleged corruption.
Menendez, like many people close to Fulop, believes Fulop wanted the Senate seat after Fulop was forced to withdraw from the governor’s race last year.
Menendez’s fate, however, is still uncertain, since federal prosecutors have yet to decide if they will bring the trial to court again.
While the GOP would no longer be able to name a Republican to the seat — since Democrat Phil Murphy will replace GOP Gov. Christopher Christie on Jan. 16 — a show trial in a critical election year for control of the Senate could allow the GOP to paint all Democrats as corrupt.
GOP tax play could hurt Murphy
The GOP federal tax cut could hurt incoming Gov. Murphy next year.
While most people will not suffer significantly under the changes proposed on a federal level, many middle class people may not be able to write off state taxes on their federal returns, as is the case currently, and Murphy is likely going to need to raise state taxes in order to fulfill some of the promises he made during his campaign.
This will cause conservative Republicans and Democrats in the legislature to balk, since local voters are likely to blame them rather than the national GOP.
Murphy could see a rebellion in his own party if he raises taxes, or disgruntled supporters if he fails to deliver on his promises.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.