Between the Lines

Massive voting put Menendez over the top

While gathered in a room at the W Hotel in Hoboken, waiting for CNN to declare U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez a winner in the Nov. 6 Senate races, journalists and well-wishers ate, drank, and listened to pop music. Loyal Democrats cheered the Democratic victories that were reported from around the county and jeered reports that showed the GOP candidates winning.

Other national news media had already announced the senator’s victory, beginning with Fox, but the Menendez campaign needed for the room to fill up before he made his dramatic appearance.

When he did, Menendez not only seemed overwhelmed by the impact of the most grueling campaign of his long career, he was also completely elated, stepping out of character to perform a few dance moves before mounting the stage to the podium where he gave his impassioned speech.

Hudson County Democrats were far ahead of the media outlets as far as knowing the state and local outcomes, but merely needed the media to confirm what they already knew.

Amy DeGise, chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, reeled off the impressive numbers that turned out for Menendez in Hudson County towns.

A massive turnout in Hudson County usually meant strong support for the Democratic candidate. Hoboken was particularly impressive, although DeGise could not say if these numbers were due to a hotly-contested referendum, or the efforts of her organization to get the vote out for Menendez.

Statewide, the election was entirely about a surge in voting, making the 2018 midterm election recording breaking. According to Menendez, this vote was a referendum on the policies of President Donald Trump – which is only partly true.

Menendez’s opponent, GOP candidate Bob Hugin, also set voting records by receiving more than 1.2 million votes – the most of any Republican in an off-year election.

Democrats managed to get out the vote to overcome Hugin. Menendez got more than 1.4 million statewide.

Menendez lead a successful Democratic blue wave in the state, carrying with him into office three critical House of Representatives seats previously held by Republicans. This helped the Democrats nationally to finally take control of the House.

The GOP, however, expanded its control in the U.S. Senate.

While DeGise declined to describe the national Democrats as surging too far to the left, she said the Menendez victory bodes well for moderates in both parties to come to agreements in the future. She said Menendez has been a voice of reason and has the ability to compromise.

Gov. Phil Murphy spent a lot of time in Hudson County over the last weeks of the campaign, even helping state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack distribute Menendez campaign literature along New York Avenue in Union City.

Local issues

But this year’s election was not completely about Menendez or control of Congress. Local issues dominated the ballot as well.

This includes the referendum in Hoboken that will reestablish runoff elections just in time for the ward council races next year.

Dawn Zimmer, when still mayor, managed to push through a referendum ending runoffs in 2012, which allowed her to win reelection in 2013 with less than 50 percent of the total vote cast.  Ravi Bhalla benefited from this to become mayor last year. But after Tuesday’s vote, runoffs will return to Hoboken.

In the Jersey City school board election, Marilyn Roman led all voting with more than 20,000 total votes. More importantly, she led her ticket to an overwhelming victory over all opposition and swept areas of the city that usually backed progressive candidates, including Ward E.

The election shifts the balance of power on the board to members strongly supported in the past by the teachers’ union.

This could pose problems for Schools Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles in the upcoming year.

In West New York, the school board election was a test of the influence of Rep. Albio Sires and seen as a prelude to next May’s municipal election in which Sires is expected to back a slate of candidates challenging Mayor Felix Roque.

A sweep by a ticket led by Adrianne Sires, the congressman’s wife, indicated just how strong the anti-Roque vote could be, and can possibly influence Roque not to run in May.

Bayonne school board election

By far the most complicated board race in the county occurred in Bayonne, where three seats for three year terms were up, and one seat for a one-year term.

Because a change in election law allowed candidates to bracket as tickets this year, you might have expected that a ticket supported by Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis would have won.

It did not.

Of the three bracketed tickets, only one candidate from the Davis-backed ticket won, Jodi Casais. Incumbent Joseph Broderick, running independently, also won.

Independent Former School Business Administrator Leo Smith was initially seen as a winner, but vote-by-mail as well as provisional ballots seemed to benefit Ava Finnerty – an issue still unresolved by press time last week.

Smith, first on the ballot and with significant name recognition, was seen as the frontrunner from the start.

But he faced a number of challengers, including Mary Jane Desmond, who resigned the board earlier this year – and then decided to run again. She is seen as the biggest loser in this campaign, even though she collected a reasonable amount of vote.

For the one-year seat, Michael Mulcahy, who is seen as politically connected to former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, won in a field of five candidates.