On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the indictment of longtime Hoboken political player Frank “Pupie” Raia — a former councilman, mayoral candidate, and current real estate developer who has built some of the city’s most well-known buildings — for alleged involvement in a vote-buying scheme in 2013.
Read the announcement of the indictment by >>clicking this link.<<
Raia, 67, has been involved in Hoboken politics for decades, most notably in the city’s 3rd Ward on the west side of town. A self-made millionaire, he has served on the Board of Education, served for a few months on the City Council in the 1980s, and has rehabbed buildings such as the Citadel in the center of town. He more recently was involved with development in the city’s formerly industrial northwest section. But the indictment was unrelated to any of his development projects.
Raia is a popular figure in town who holds a birthday party for himself every year on the waterfront, open to all. Political players from all sides come to the event.
Rumors of alleged vote-buying have persisted in almost every Hoboken election, whether Raia has been a candidate or seen as more behind-the-scenes, endorsing others. Over the years, various government entities have announced investigations into voter schemes that have rarely borne fruit (see earlier Reporter stories about the city’s history of voter fraud allegations and >>election shenanigans<<).
This indictment followed the >>announcement of an indictment<< against a more low-level worker a few months back. As reported at the time, many wondered whether the investigation would net bigger fish.
In a well-known practice, campaigns often visit senior citizens to encourage them to fill out absentee ballots in advance. They also encourage campaign workers to vote in advance, then pay them to work on Election Day, ostensibly to get out the vote. However, if a correlation could be proven between getting them to vote a certain way, and paying them, that would be an illegal quid-pro-quo.
Wednesday’s announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office also included the indictment of campaign worker Dio Braxton in connection with the same scheme.
The city of Hoboken released a statement: “This latest indictment is extremely concerning because it yet again again proves what Hoboken voters have known for years – Vote By Mail fraud extends all the way to public figures and those who run political campaigns. If true, Mr. Raia and any other public officials participating in voter bribery must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Paying people for votes is a serious breach of our electoral integrity, and sadly remains a part of Hoboken’s elections.”
Hoboken elections are non-partisan. Rather than Democrats vs. Republicans, the elections are often about local issues or pit groups of people against each other based on whether they support whoever the current mayor is.
An indictment is not a judgment of guilt or innocence, but is a grand jury decision that there is enough evidence for a matter to proceed to trial.
As this story broke at the end of the day, more information is likely to come out in the near future. Watch the Hoboken Reporter (hudsonreporter.com) for more coverage. For past stories on Hoboken elections, voter fraud, and Raia, use the archives for hudsonreporter.com. To reach the Hoboken Reporter, call 201-798-7800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.