Between the lines

Republican’s best hope may be Gov. Phil Murphy

Hudson County Republicans running for county and state offices this year won’t be running against their Democratic opponents, but rather against the budget that Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy introduced this week that proposes raising taxes again on the wealthy.

Hudson County Republican Chairman Jose Arango says the local Republican campaign will focus on Murphy’s tax proposals and those local legislators who support it.

“These policies will destroy small businesses and hurt homeowners in Hudson County and Jersey City,” Arango said. “It’s obvious that Trenton has abandoned us.”

Many of these taxes will pay government employee pensions and other entities that go beyond the usual social welfare of the past.

According to several media reports, the state budget enacted in 2018 raised more than $1 billion in new revenue from increases in gross income taxes on anyone earning more than $5 million annually and from a 2.5 percent surtax on corporations earning more than $1 million. The state also tapped into the ride share market and Airbnb and raised taxes on e-cigarettes.

The governor has promised the upcoming budget will increase taxes on the wealthy even more, and he has also proposed a water tax that would affect nearly every homeowner in the state.

“It’s one thing to tax people to help people in a desperate situation, but these taxes are different,” Arango said. “Anyone can have a problem. We have to be compassionate. But many of these taxes are aimed at helping people from outside the United States. You can’t just tax people just because they’re successful. I came from Cuba because I didn’t want government telling me how to live my life. Now we’re seeing the same thing here. If we keep taxing people, soon they won’t be able to pay rent or pay taxes.”

Arango said the Republicans want to send a message this year in what has traditionally been a Democratic county that taxes are too high. He said part of his job will be to dispel misinformation that the federal tax plan passed under President Donald Trump was aimed at hurting local taxpayers.

“Trump’s tax plan lowered taxes for most people except in those states like New Jersey where taxes are very high,” Arango said.

The $10,000 limit on property taxes that can be written off federal income taxes has really riled Democrats, with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and other local Democrats seeking to undo it.

But Arango said this restriction only showed just how overtaxed New Jersey residents are. He said taxes will be a key piece in the Republican campaign to unseat Democratic candidates locally.

Republicans will announce slate by March 20

In late February, the Hudson County Democratic Organization announced support for Democratic candidates running in the June primary.

The Hudson County Republicans are expected to announce their candidates around the March 20 filing date.

This will include Republican challengers for each of the county and assembly seats, according to Arango.

“We’re putting together a ticket of young people, all of them well-qualified, with the average age of about 30,” Arango said. “This will be a diverse ticket.”

Unseating Democrats in Hudson County will be a tall order, since Democrats have dominated local politics since just after 1900 when Frank Hague emerged and wrestled the county out of Republican hands.

A Republican hasn’t been elected to a state seat in Hudson County since the early 1980s when Tom Kean was elected governor in one of the biggest Republican victories in state history, bringing in many new Republicans in traditionally Democratic areas.

Chris Christie, who was elected governor in 2009, did not have the coattails that Kean did.

“Christie was good at selling himself,” Arango admitted.

Will demographic changes be enough?

But demographic shifts are changing the political makeup of Hudson County. There are more Republicans moving in with new development.

While west Hudson County has always had a strong Republican base, new pockets are appearing along the Hudson waterfront as well.

West New York has an active political party. While Hoboken has seen a rise in registered Republicans, Arango said just like municipal politics, the Republican Party is fractured.

“There are at least three different Republican Parties in Hoboken,” he said. “They don’t know yet how to organize.”

But there are other strongholds of Republican votes that Arango hopes will help get Republicans elected. This includes Democrats in Bayonne and North Bergen. Secaucus tends to vote independent locally and Republican in state and federal elections.

But his highest hopes center on new residents along the waterfront in places like West New York and Weehawken, which have no loyalty to the old Democratic political machine.

One reason for Arango’s seeking younger people to get involved in the Republican Party may well have to do with finding his eventual replacement as chair.

“Next year I will have been chairman for 31 years,” he said. “I want to make sure that there is someone who can inherit the job.”

Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com