HCDO announces endorsements for legislature and county executive

Murphy: “The people of Hudson County deserve elected officials who will work every day to deliver for New Jersey's middle class and working families"

Numerous Hudson County Democratic leaders and hundreds of supporters showed up on Saturday, January 7 for the official announcement of the party’s endorsements for the new 32nd and 33rd Legislative District seats post-legislative redistricting and for County Executive in the June Democratic Primary.

Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairman (HCDO) Anthony Vainieri was joined by Governor Phil Murphy, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, as well as Senate President Nick Scutari, among others at the press conference.

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Due to legislative redistricting at the state level, there has been a bit of a leadership shuffle in Hudson County. On the legislative map, the 32nd and 33rd Legislative Districts essentially swapped.

The 32nd shifted from North Hudson to Hoboken and parts of Jersey City. Meanwhile, the 33rd shifted from Hoboken and parts of Jersey City to North Hudson.

This left state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco in the same district as fellow Democratic state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack. Instead of rehashing an old beef, Sacco opted to retire and focus on running for re-election for mayor, endorsing Stack for the new 33rd Legislative District in the process.

However, Sacco cut a deal to choose one of the new assembly members with West New York keeping the other choice. That has since materialized with the announcements of the endorsements across the county.

The 32nd Legislative District

The HCDO had endorsed Raj Mukherji for State Senate, and Jessica Ramirez and John Allen for State Assembly in District 32.

Mukherji has served in the State Assembly since 2013 representing the 33rd District. He is an attorney and serial entrepreneur with healthcare, real estate, technology, and regulated cannabis holdings who joined the U.S. Marine Corps following 9/11 and later entered public service as a Deputy Mayor in Jersey City.

Ramirez is a Jersey City resident and partner at the law firm D’Arcy Johnson Day, where she specializes in serious personal injury, sexual abuse, medical device and product liability litigation. She has served on the State Ethics Committee and as an Eminent Domain Commissioner.

The announcement of her candidacy means a Latina will continue to represent the District. This was a concern of outgoing State Assemblywomen Angelica Jimenez and Annette Chaparro, which appears to have been qualmed.

Allen of Hoboken is the former Chief of Staff to Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and his predecessor Dawn Zimmer. He’s an attorney with the firm Schenck Price and also serves on a number of public bodies, including the Hudson County Planning Board and the Garden State Joint Insurance Fund.

Both Ramirez and Allen were already known as candidates since December of last year. And Mukherji announced he was running for the State Senate seat back in February of 2022.

The 33rd Legislative District and County Executive

In District 33, the HCDO backs Brian Stack for State Senate, and Gabriel Rodriguez and Julio Marenco for State Assembly. Rodriguez is not running for re-election for mayor and Marenco is leaving his post as Commissioner of Revenue and Finance in North Bergen.

Stack has served as a State Senator representing the 33rd Legislative District since 2007 and previously was elected to the State Assembly. He is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has responsibility for approving nominations to a variety of state and judicial positions.

Rodriguez is currently in his first term as mayor of West New York and has served on the Board of Commissioners since 2015. He formerly served as Field Representative and Campaign Director for Congressman Albio Sires, and he works as an Accounts Manager for the West New York Board of Education.

Marenco was elected to the North Bergen Board of Commissioners in 2015 and previously served as a member of the local Board of Education. A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the submarine service, he is an attorney, adjunct professor and an associate member of the State Parole Board.

After Stack and Sacco worked out a deal, Rodriguez was rumored to be West New York’s candidate for Assembly since Sires announced he was going to retire and run for West New York mayor. And Marenco was speculated to be North Bergen’s choice since Sacco announced he would retire from the State Senate.

In addition, the HCDO also formally endorsed Craig Guy for County Executive. Guy announced his campaign in September, already with full support of the HCDO, to replace retiring County Executive Tom DeGise.

Guy is the longtime Chief of Staff to Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and a career public servant. He is a retired Jersey City police officer, a member of the Hudson County Schools of Technology Board of Education and the Treasurer of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.

The HCDO touted the numerous supporters and officials in attendance for their announcement.

Democrats support selected candidates

“This is an exciting day for Hudson County as we officially begin the Primary Election by endorsing seven truly outstanding candidates, all of whom have long records of public service and varied experiences that will enable them to become the excellent representatives that the people of our county deserve,” said Vainieri. “With two talented, seasoned legislators in Brian Stack and Raj Mukherji running for Senate, four dynamic new candidates for State Assembly and a candidate for County Executive in Craig Guy who could not be more prepared to hit the ground running on day one, I’m very proud of the group of leaders we have assembled today, and of the unity that exists right now in the Hudson County Democratic Organization.”

The event was held outside the historic Brennan Courthouse at 583 Newark Avenue in Jersey City and was also attended by 8th District Congressman Rob Menendez, former 8th District Congressman Albio Sires, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Bayonne Mayor James Davis, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, County Sheriff Frank Schillari, County Clerk Junior Maldonado, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, Assemblyman William Sampson, Kearny Mayor Al Santos, Guttenberg Mayor Wayne Zitt, County Commissioners Bill O’Dea, Jerry Walker, Ken Kopacz and Anthony Romano, as well as numerous local council members, union leaders, community members and more.

“I commend Chairman Vainieri, Senator Stack, Assemblyman Mukherji, and Hudson Democratic leaders on selecting an experienced, talented team of candidates who are ready to deliver for Hudson County,” said Murphy. “The people of Hudson County deserve elected officials who will work every day to deliver for New Jersey’s middle class and working families and I look forward to working alongside Craig Guy and the legislators from Hudson County to do just that.”

The legislative candidates will be running in newly created districts that were selected by the Legislative Redistricting Commission last year. District 32 now includes parts of Jersey City as well as Hoboken. District 33 now includes Union City, North Bergen, West New York, Weehawken, Secaucus and Guttenberg.

“Hudson County will always be a place that is close to my heart, so I am proud to be a part of today’s announcement of this new day for the Hudson County Democratic Organization under the leadership of Chairman Vainieri,” said Sen. Menendez. “Each of these candidates represents the best of Hudson County and I know they will work hard between now and Election Day, so they each have my full support and endorsement. I look forward to partnering with them to fight for our shared Democratic values here in Hudson County, in Trenton and in Washington.”

What’s next for the 31st Legislative District?

Meanwhile State Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, much like Pedro Mejia and Jimenez, is left off the “county line.” It is not clear yet what Mejia, and also Chaparro for that matter, will do in terms of running against the HCDO-backed candidates.

Amid the announcements, questions are also swirling around state Sen. Sandra Cunningham resigning in the 31st Legislative District, encompassing parts of Jersey City and Bayonne. While replacement candidates have ranged from Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea to the 31st Legislative District’s own state Assemblywoman McKnight, activists have called for the candidate to remain a woman of color.

The district’s seats are currently occupied by a trifecta of Black lawmakers, in what is thought to be the first time that has occurred in history. In addition to Cunningham’s woes, the 31st Legislative District’s Sampson has also faced recent controversy over his removal by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor from his position as a longshoreman which he is appealing.

However, amid rumors Cunningham would resign, and the Sampson issue, the HCDO has not made any endorsements for the 31st Legislative District. It has made it clear it will announce its endorsements in the District and for the County Commission at a later date.

“As one of our economic, cultural and political powerhouses, Hudson County is critical to New Jersey’s future, and I am glad to see Chairman Vainieri endorse this exciting team of leaders to keep the county and our state moving forward,” said Booker. “I’ve seen the hard work, dedication, and leadership these candidates bring to their communities. I’m confident they will continue to bring people together and fight for policies that empower New Jersey families.”

The HCDO-backed candidates will likely prevail in the establishment Democrat-leaning Hudson County. Republicans may run their own tickets challenging the Democrats in power in the 31st, 32nd and 33rd Legislative Districts, but local voters lean overwhelmingly Democratic, and when the HCDO determines the candidates, it means their choices are shoo-ins to win.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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