Between the lines

Deal-making in Hoboken

Rumors that Councilman Ruben Ramos may have made a deal to replace Ravi Bhalla as mayor of Hoboken appear to be exaggerated.

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The rumor suggested the Bhalla would seek a higher office, and would endorse Ramos for mayor once the seat was vacated.

Another rumor suggests the Bhalla and Ramos may have cut a deal to allow Ramos to run unopposed in the 4th Ward – or at least, Bhalla would not put up a candidate against Ramos.

This is similar to a deal Councilman Michael Russo in the 3rd Ward appears to have made with Bhalla, although Councilman Michael DeFusco may well tap candidates to run against Russo and Ramos anyway as part of a ticket of ward candidates in November.

Bhalla apparently isn’t planning to leave as mayor just yet, although he apparently met with state Senator Brian Stack hoping to get former freeholder candidate Phil Cohen nominated to the state Assembly seat currently occupied by Annette Chaparro.

Stack apparently said that the seat would have to go to a woman or a Latino. This may have hatched a plan that would have Ramos re-nominated to the Assembly with Stack’s support and vacate the 4th Ward council seat in order to secure that seat for a Bhalla supporter. This move could possibly give Bhalla a voting majority on the city council.

There is no secret that Bhalla would like to ascend to a higher office. The problem is there aren’t many opportunities. Stack is secure in the state senate seat. Another possible seat would be the seat in the U.S. Senate currently occupied by Cory Booker.

But too many other more powerful people around New Jersey are eyeing that seat, especially if Booker manages to pull off a miracle and actually win the Democratic nomination for president next year.

While Hudson County will be backing Booker’s candidacy, he isn’t likely to get through the Iowa and New Hampshire caucus and primary.

The only seat Bhalla could possibly get would be in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the current occupant, Albio Sires does seem to want to vacate it.

North Bergen campaign gets alien twist

The popular success of the North Bergen high school play based on the “Alien” movies has naturally created a political conflict in the upcoming mayoral race between incumbent Mayor Nicholas Sacco and his challenger Larry Wainstein.

Supporters of Sacco claim Wainstein put out a political flyer attacking the play. Supporters of Wainstein claim the flyer posted on line was a fake. Supporters on both sides claim the school district’s theater department should not become a political football.

This is only the latest incident in what has become a political brawl. So much mud has been slung in this race that neither side can be credited with running a clean campaign.

The Sacco campaign has been hitting Wainstein hard on federal tax liens, playing up the idea that if the candidate can’t manage his own finances, how can he deal with the infinitely more complex finances of North Bergen government?

Wainstein’s campaign is hitting hard on the proposed power plant, and how out of touch with green technology the Sacco administration is.

This may not be a winning strategy for Wainstein. While environmentalists swarm into town to oppose the power plant, local voters may be more concerned with how the facility’s tax revenue can be used to keep property taxes stable.

It is impossible to tell just how close Wainstein might be getting, but his followers believe he’s in the game. Wainstein apparently spent a lot of time registering new voters. The challenge will be getting them to the polls to vote on May 14.

Sacco’s GOTV (get out the vote) is well-known for its efficiency. Wainstein’s campaign will need to step up their game to compete.

Both Sacco and Wainstein are knocking on doors throughout North Bergen. Wainstein workers have been seen at bus stops and ferry terminals looking to engage potential voters.

Political battle in Jersey City

Mayor Steven Fulop and Council President Rolando Lavarro are in the middle of their own political war. While the latest scuffle involves Lavarro’s push to double salaries for members of the council, the fight really is about other issues.

Lavarro and Fulop have been drifting apart even before their ticket won in November 2017.  Behind the scenes, Lavarro has resisted some of Fulop’s initiatives, positioning him as “not a team player.”

Lavarro will not be on Fulop’s ticket in 2021. This may explain why Lavarro is raising funds two years ahead of the election.

But some question whether Lavarro will try to unseat Fulop as mayor rather than just seek to salvage his council seat.

Fulop, meanwhile, may have made a deal with old enemies on the Hudson County Democratic Organization to allow Amy DeGise to run on Fulop’s ticket for an at-large council seat, replacing Lavarro.

Many see DeGise as the future of the Democratic Party, not just in Jersey City, but throughout Hudson County, a face that reflects many of the new progressive positions of the younger population.

Roque is not yet history

Local political observers cannot see a way for Mayor Felix Roque to keep his seat West New York. Even if he successfully manages to win a commissioners seat, and many think his ticket will not, that would leave Roque with a board stacked 4 to 1 against him.

In a commission form of government, commissioners get elected by the public, and then vote to decide which one of the commissioners will be named as mayor.

Book makers – if anyone is actually betting on the outcome – wouldn’t give good odds for Roque even getting that far. But Roque has surprised people in the past.


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