U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez won the Democratic Primary on June 5 and will be going into the general election against GOP challenger Bob Hugin. But while Democrats may rally behind Menendez in November, his close victory over underfunded Lisa McCormick reveals a serious vulnerability that you can expect the GOP to exploit.
A two-term incumbent, Menendez won with just shy of 60 percent of the Democratic vote. McCormick, who ran a grass-roots campaign, came up with a surprising 38 percent, despite the fact that the chairs of all 21 county Democrat organizations in New Jersey endorsed Menendez.
The senator, while never an overwhelming favorite even in past elections, was hampered by a recent scolding by the Senate Ethics Committee for how he dealt with gifts from a friend and campaign donor. The federal corruption case against Menendez fell apart after a mistrial last year. But a dark cloud has been hanging over him ever since.
His only saving grace is the Hugin may be going into the general election with as much baggage as Menendez. Hugin, a former drug company executive, oversaw a settlement in a lawsuit brought against the company. Drug companies are not popular in today’s culture and so expect Menendez to exploit this as well as the general GOP connection with Donald Trump in the November general election.
You can expect both sides to become extremely nasty as the GOP seeks to steal a critical Democratic senate seat, and the Democrats seek to hold onto it. At stake is control of the U.S. Senate and the likelihood that the Senate will oversee the confirmation of one or more Supreme Court justices over the next two years. If the GOP is successful, the Supreme Court will likely become much more conservative than in the recent past.
Sires is still popular in West New York
The battle for Democratic committee seats in West New York was clearly won by those supporting Tom and Amy DeGise in the ongoing battle over who will steer county government.
All but 10 of the 58 committee seats went to DeGise loyalists who are expected to turn out on July 19 in Kearny to vote for Amy DeGise as chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
In a statement, DeGise said that West New York and Harrison delivered a strong message to the political machine of state Sen/ and Union City Mayor Brian Stack that the HCDO won’t be taken over by him.
Stack, along with the mayors of West New York, Hoboken, and Jersey City, hope to unseat Amy’s father Tom in next year’s election for county executive. The person sitting as chair of the HCDO would have a huge say in determining which candidate the party will support.
Rep. Albio Sires, a strong DeGise supporter, put his own personal popularity on the line in this committee fight in West New York. As a former mayor of West New York, he called on his supporters to rally behind DeGise. Stack, who previously served as state senator in West New York before the town was redistricted in 2012, also tested his personal popularity, sending more than 100 workers into town to help get out the anti-DeGise vote.
Amy DeGise, however, was also helped by the fact that the committee people supporting her ran on the ballot along with Sires and Menendez. As unpopular as Menendez might be in the rest of the state, locals strongly support him.
Roque could be in trouble
The committee vote in West New York will have implications for Mayor Felix Roque was well.
With the majority of commissioners in West New York loyal to political people other than Roque, this inability to control the committee will likely be the opening gambit in a move to replace Roque next year.
Three of the five commissioners in WNY supported DeGise in this election. But more importantly, one or more have strong loyalties to state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who supports Tom DeGise, and one is strongly aligned with Sires.
This bodes ill for Roque’s reelection chances, especially because of the position Roque has taken in supporting Stack’s move to take over the HCDO.
Bad feelings will linger into 2019 even if Amy DeGise becomes the HCDO chair this year. While Stack is safe on his island in Union City, Roque will likely feel the wrath as Sires, Sacco and Tom DeGise throw their support behind one of the other commissioners to run against him.
The passing of an icon
The death of Jersey Journal columnist Earl Morgan last week is more than just the loss of another reporter. Morgan was a powerful voice in Hudson County for the under-represented, not just in the African-American community, but for any of the downtrodden masses that are often neglected or overlooked in the rush for progress.
Morgan fought for decades to make sure that these people got their fair share of the success that has enriched the Gold Coast, and held public officials accountable when it came to distribution of wealth. Over the last decade, he was a tireless voice in pushing for Jersey City government to live up to recommendations in a report that showed disparity in wealth, jobs and opportunities.
Yet beyond serving as a reminder of promises made but not lived up to by society, Morgan was the conscience of the community, a beacon of light in darkening times. He constantly fought the good fight against bad options, and in many cases, won – not for himself, but for people who otherwise lacked a voice or power to fight for themselves.
Morgan’s death robs Hudson County of experience and knowledge that only he had. While many will remember Morgan as the heart and soul of the community, he was also its living memory. He takes with him recollections that we have lost forever. We can only cling to what he’s written in the past with the hope we can build on his legacy.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.