Between the lines

Do you know who Joe Mocco is?

The North Bergen municipal election has kicked off on a negative note, as advocates for the reelection of Mayor Nicholas Sacco launched an attack against challenger Larry Wainstein, attempting to connect him to a scandal that is nearly 30 years old.

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Joe Mocco was a powerful town clerk who was seen as the real political boss in North Bergen in the 1980s, but was brought down by charges of alleged corruption. He was apparently prohibited from getting involved with politics as a condition of his parole. But since his parole is over, those limitations no longer apply.

In a kind of tongue-and-cheek political intrigue, Mocco is the ghost in the closet that Sacco allies drag out to attack Wainstein. This is almost a repeat of similar attacks during the 2015 election.

Mocco has routinely met with political figures throughout North Hudson, often being introduced as “Frank” with a wink and a nod.

Oddly enough, the claim that Mocco was spotted recently at Wainstein’s headquarters comes from a story published on NJ Globe, a web publication run by David Wildstein, a man connected intimately with the Bridgegate scandal a few years ago and not particularly friendly to Sacco.

The question is: why does Sacco’s reelection machine need to make the association between Wainstein and Mocco, when Sacco, who is also a state senator, clearly has more money, political soldiers and other advantages?

Perhaps the Sacco people fear there may be validity to rumors that some of the political bosses of South Jersey, such as Senate President Steven Sweeney and political boss George Norcross, may invest in Wainstein’s election.

While South Jersey may dislike Sacco, those bosses are not likely to make a move in Hudson County unless some powerful Hudson County politico such as state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack backs Wainstein first.

Stack has backed Wainstein before. Yet after his role in last spring’s failed coup against the Hudson County Democratic Organization, Stack may be very reluctant to start a new war over Wainstein.

Is Amy the one?

Amy DeGise’s decision to step down from the Jersey City Board of Education to concentrate on her work as chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HDCO) has raised eyebrows in political circles locally and throughout the state.

HCDO insiders have been looking for a quality candidate to run against Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop in 2021, when he reportedly will seek a third term.

Fulop’s part in the unsuccessful attempt to unseat DeGise’s father Tom DeGise as county executive early in 2018 has so enraged the Democratic mainstream that they openly said they would seek to unseat him. While many people are eyeing Fulop’s seat, Amy DeGise may well bring together two factions of the Democratic Party others cannot, progressives and the old-school party members.

By attracting progressive voters, Amy DeGise could erode the base that brought Fulop into office in the first place.

But Fulop will not be easy to beat. He has a significant financial war chest. But he also has made serious enemies that could include state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (and his allies) to name a few.

Amy DeGise could find herself with significant backers that previous Fulop opponents lacked, and may well force Fulop to consider other options, such as a possible run for U.S. Senate to fill the seat currently occupied by Cory Booker.

West New York numbers may matter

In launching his ticket for the West New York municipal election, Mayor Felix Roque may have a numbers problem.  Whereas the New Beginnings party – which is made up of three current commissioners seeking to unseat Roque – made its announcement with hundreds of supporters, Roque had only a handful of supporters at his announcement.

Roque needs to win his seat as well as two others to retain his position as mayor, since the mayor is not selected by voters, but by the commissioners.

Roque has money to fund a campaign, but prospective donors may well ask why throw money away if it looks as if he will lose?

Elections are a bit devious. By painting Roque as a lost cause, his opposition may discourage him from running or, more important, discourage his supporters, who may not bother going to the polls.

Al Sullivan can be reached at


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