Gov. Phil Murphy was the headliner in a roster of speeches given at the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s 60th annual Fall Gala fundraiser, during which officials spoke positively about the state of the countywide organization. Members have been relatively unified in the wake of Amy DeGise’s election as HCDO chair.
With the Nov. 5 general election just days away, every incumbent assembly candidate in the county, Hudson County Sheriff Frank X. Schillari, Freeholder and Surrogate candidate Tilo Rivas, and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise will appear on the partisan portion of ballots in all 12 Hudson towns on Column A. Observers project that Nov. 5 will be noncompetitive for those aligned with one of New Jersey’s most powerful Democratic strongholds.
Food and booze were flowing at The Boulevard, a North Bergen venue, one of the largest in the county, still known as Schuetzen Park before new owners refurbished it. Nearly every elected official in the county turned out. Those who didn’t sent their well-wishes.
North Bergen Mayor and LD32 State Senator Nicholas Sacco was the night’s host. Craig Guy, who serves as both Chief of Staff to Tom DeGise and as a unelected political guru to the HCDO membership, served was the MC.
Murphy credited Hudson County’s Democratic Party with setting the tone for progressive policies across the state.
“If you want to look at the good things happening in this state, you’ve got to begin by looking at Hudson County to see how it comes to life,” Murphy said. “There are no better Democrats in this state or in this country.”
Amy DeGise said that, although she predicts that every HCDO endorsee will have a favorable result on Nov. 5, she still considers it important to rally and get the greatest voter turnout possible.
Get out the vote
“We stood in a similar situation about a year ago pushing to elect Senator Bob Menendez,” DeGise said. “We need to continue to outperform ourselves, using the newest technologies for campaigning, employing veteran foot patrol ideas, and creating a platform that is built together with our community and never behind closed doors. A strong voter turnout translates into more power, better policy, and good funding throughout Hudson County.”
Peg Schaffer, vice chair of New Jersey’s State Democratic Committee, echoed DeGise’s call for voter turnout efforts in Hudson County.
She related Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Hudson County to thank its Democrats for helping with her election as speaker. Schaffer said the gathering in The Boulevard was just as much about the 2020 presidential election as it was about Nov. 5.
Schaffer said that the “blue wave” New Jersey is undergoing largely has to do with animosity toward President Donald Trump, whom she described as the “Misogynist in Chief.”
“It seems like every day he does, says, or texts something that gets more women, youth, and Democrats energized,” Schaffer said. “More people are joining us and saying, ‘let’s get it done.’”
After receiving a standing ovation, Sacco kept things brief and asked the night’s estimated 600 attendees to think about the influence that Hudson County has on the level of state and even national politics.
“We will prevail election after election as long as we learn one lesson—when we’re together, no one can beat us,” Sacco said.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla was on hand with his favored slate of council candidates seeking to unseat incumbent council members who’ve intermittently feuded with him on a number of issues since he first took office. While the HCDO usually endorses local candidates, the organization’s leaders vowed to steer clear of any local endorsements in Hoboken.
The speeches ended with East Newark mayor-elect Dina Grillo presenting outgoing Mayor Joe Smith with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Smith, who served 40 years in office, is one of the longest-serving mayors in Hudson County’s history. He’s a runner-up to Francis E. Rodgers, who served as Harrison’s mayor from 1946 to 1995.
Smith bid the Hudson County political scene adieu with a slightly off-color joke about bowel movements that garnered hearty laughs. He expressed gratitude especially to North Bergen, Kearny, and Harrison officials, along with his own coworkers in the council, who kept the 0.1-square-mile town running effectively.
Dignitaries included all of the county’s incumbent Assembly candidates, Senator Sandra Cunningham, and Freeholders Anthony Vainieri, Bill O’Dea, Anthony Romano, Ken Kopacz, Jerry Walker, Tilo Rivas, and Caridad Rodriguez. Eleven Hudson County mayors were there. Union City Mayor Brian Stack sent his well-wishes. He was reportedly knocking on doors to push for voter turnout in Union City.