Between the Lines

Sue me sue you blues

George Harrison once recorded a song called “Sue Me Sue You Blues” to reflect the turmoil surrounding the breakup The Beatles.

This year that song might well become the theme song for the reelection campaign of West New York Mayor Felix Roque.

Roque suddenly realized that some of the people he got elected with four years ago are apparently working against him politically, and he has filed a lawsuit to stop them and has also included the town attorney, claiming they are impeding the normal function of government for political reasons .

Roque is in the middle of the toughest election of his career, and is trying to avoid getting buried under an avalanche in the May election.

His suit raises nothing new on the political landscape, except maybe to throw in the name of the town counsel. Clearly someone shook the mayor awake and made him take notice that three of the five commissioners he serves with are against him politically. The three commissioners currently running against Roque ran with him four years ago in an effort to put the brakes on what political bosses saw as an out of control Roque during his first term as mayor.

The idea was to insert people into West New York government that would provide more predictability and create a stable environment for fear that Roque might be an unreliable partner.  As long as Roque kept to the approved script, the political bosses were content to leave Roque as a figure head while the real power remained in the hands of the commissioners.

Signs of dissatisfaction emerged last year when the commissioners flexed their muscles to remove Roque as the powerful commissioner for public safety and reassigned him as commissioner of parks and recreation.

Perhaps the commissioners were already planning to use the parks against Roque, since the town had long-standing problems in providing recreational programs for youth. A Miller Stadium upgrade has been an issue for years, but it falls on Roque’s shoulders this year since he’s in charge of parks.

Did Stack make a deal with the HCDO?

Roque became a political pariah last year when he sided with Mayors Brian Stack, Ravi Bhalla, and Steven Fulop in an attempt to seize control of Hudson County government.

Roque was seen as a key figure in the fight between Stack and Amy DeGise for chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization. Had Rogue been able to control 50 West New York committee votes, Stack would have won.

Stack was supposed to help Roque win those committee seats during last year’s Democratic Primary. While Stack’s army of volunteers came to West New York, they apparently did a lot of marching and shouting, but very little in the way of helping Roque get the vote out.

Some believe Stack made a back room deal with those supporting Amy DeGise – which included Sacco, Sires and others – to let West New York’s committee seats go to DeGise instead.

The deal may have included Tilo Rivas backing off a threat to run against Rep. Albio Sires in the primary and in exchange, the HCDO would later back Rivas in the upcoming primary for County Surrogate.

Bhalla also made peace with the HCDO, yet it is unclear what he got in exchange for coming back into the Democratic fold. Some believe that he may be in line for Sires’ seat in the House of Representative if and when Sires decides to retire from it.

For the last nine months, Roque and Fulop remained on the HCDO’s most wanted list, with rumors that Amy DeGise could challenge Fulop for mayor in 2021. But apparently Fulop has made a deal of his own and was recently seen attending a fundraiser for Sacco. This may be a sign that the HCDO will not try to unseat Fulop after all.

This leaves only Roque on the bad boy list, and will likely see him driven from office in May as the power brokers build their opposition against him.

Fulop is the rich kid on the block

Fulop has a political war chest that may make him impossible to beat in 2021, although he may well see opposition as he sets up his council slate.

Rumors suggest that Fulop will not be inviting Council President Rolando Lavarro back to the table.

Lavarro has been raising opposition to a number of Fulop initiatives, which is something you don’t do to someone at the head of the ticket.

The big question for Lavarro is whether or not he can win reelection as an opposition candidate.

Lavarro may well learn something Chris Gadsden learned in the 2017 election.  Money is extremely influential in determining who gets elected, and since Fulop has more money than God, Lavarro will face stiff opposition.

Rumor is that part of the deal with HCDO is to have Amy DeGise take Lavarro’s place on the Fulop ticket.

This may well explain why Lavarro is holding a political fundraiser at the Historic Loew’s Theatre in April, more than two years in advance of the 2021 election

Legislation would reveal political donors

There is a war brewing statewide over the concept of making public the names of those who support candidates.

Activists largely associated with specific causes appear to want to shut the public out from disclosure that would reveal who gives them money calling it “anti-privacy” legislation.

Disclosure is designed to allow potential voters to know what powerful groups are influencing those who sit in positions of power, whether this is a large corporation or some single-issue lobbyist.

But activists groups claim disclosure of their supporters could lead to intimidation.

This idea that activist groups are less powerful is more than a little dishonest, since they can wield equal or even greater influence on public opinion, while those who must choose between candidates must have information about this influence.

Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com