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Hudson progressives run for seats in county government

It appears likely a full slate of 10 candidates may form ahead of the June Primary

Alex Valdez is running for County Commissioner in District 9. Photo courtesy of his campaign.

All nine Hudson County Commissioner seats are up for re-election in 2023. Primary Election Day for the Democrats is June 6, and the winners would usually go on to handily defeat Republican candidates in the “deep blue” Hudson County.

But this year a handful of progressive candidates will try to challenge the usual primary cakewalk for Hudson County Democratic Organization office holders.

Alex Valdez has announced his candidacy for Hudson County Commissioner for District 9, comprising the West Hudson towns of Kearny, Harrison, East Newark, and parts of Secaucus and Jersey City. The seat is currently held by Commissioner Albert Cifelli.

As a non-profit leader and former Sergeant in the New Jersey Army National Guard, Valdez said he understands the wants and needs of the people of Hudson County. He is challenging an incumbent who has run unopposed for over 20 years to ensure that Hudson County residents have an advocate on the board who will fight to keep their community affordable, safe, and supportive.

“I am running for County Commissioner to ensure that Hudson County is a place where rent is affordable, our streets are safe, the environment is clean, and the American Dream is still attainable,” Valdez said. “As the child of a single mother who immigrated to this country, and a product of Kearny public schools, I am eager to give back to the community that gave so much to me. Each day the conversations I’ve been having with the residents of West Hudson have been nothing short of inspirational.”

Like so many others, Alex’s mother immigrated to Hudson County seeking better opportunities and the American Dream for her children. He was born and raised in Kearny and is a proud product of Kearny public schools, as well as Rutgers-Newark where he earned his Master’s Degree in Public Administration.

Valdez has coordinated after-school and summer programs for low-income youth in Passaic and Paterson, and now serves as a Board Chair for America Needs You-NJ, a non-profit dedicated to assisting first generation college students with career development. Additionally, he has worked on humanitarian aid missions supporting Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russia-Ukraine War, vulnerable Afghans who were evacuated to the United States, and asylum-seekers from the southern border including families, who just like his own, came here seeking a better life.

Valdez is running for Hudson County Commissioner in District 9 to keep the community affordable, improve parking and public transit, expand access to green space, and increase transparency and accountability in government. For more information about his campaign, go online to AlexValdezNJ.com.

Adrian Ghainda is running for County Commissioner in District 2. Photo courtesy of Ghainda.

District 2 progressive declares his candidacy as well

Along with Valdez, 24-year-old Adrian Ghainda of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County has recently launched his first campaign for public office for the District 2 seat on the Hudson County Board of Commissioners.

District 2 consists of most of western Jersey City and part of downtown. The seat is currently occupied by Commissioner Bill O’Dea.

“I am running for County Commissioner because our people deserve an option at the ballot box,” Ghainda said. “We deserve to have the working-class represented not only by everyday people but to also have our voices heard in every political process”.

Ghainda is a Jersey City native and a graduate from New Jersey City University Class of 2020. He is currently the Special Projects Director for Voters of Tomorrow New Jersey, the former State Delegate for the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County and former member of the Board of Delegates for the Progressive Democrats of New Jersey.

“I was born and raised in Jersey City and I’ve seen the toll it’s taken on friends, family, and neighbors who were pushed out of our county because of how unaffordable it became,” Ghainda said. “We deserve to have our elected officials advocating to keep us in the place we’ve called home instead of selling us out for a pretty penny.”

Ghainda has also served as a Field Coordinator for the Hudson County Democratic Socialists of America’s Right to Counsel campaign. His announcement came with a glowing endorsement from a fellow progressive, activist and former candidate for New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District Ricardo Rojas.

“Adrian is one of the most kind and selfless people I have ever had the blessing to work with,” Rojas said. “He is a true organizer at heart who understands that the injustices of the morally bankrupt system and those who prop it up are not resolved by the charity of a single individual, but through building community through solidarity. He is a man wise beyond his years, who I am confident will bring truly inclusive, truly progressive vision for the 2nd District so that every neighbor no matter their place of origin or socioeconomic class can call this place “home”, now and in years to come.”

For more information about his campaign, go online to adrianghaindanj.com.

Mamta Singh is running for County Commissioner in District 4. File photo.

Progressives challenge incumbent establishment Democrats

Mamta Singh has recentlyannounced she is running for Hudson County Commissioner for District 4. District 4 encompasses Jersey City Wards D and C and part of Ward E, currently represented by Yraida Aponte-Lipski.

Singh is a mom and Jersey City resident for the past 14 years who  founded local non-profit JCFamilies Inc., a 501(c)3 that connects families in aims to enhance residents’ parenting experience. In addition to her work with JCFamilies, Singh is an active member of the Hamilton Park community, and serves on the County Committee.

Singh’s vision includes increasing climate resilience, revitalizing public transportation, ensuring District 4 remains an affordable community to raise a family, and ensuring the County’s $600 million budget is managed “fairly, transparently, and to directly benefit the community.” Her announcement came with an endorsement by Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon, a progressive figure in local politics.

For more information about her campaign, go online to mamtasingforjc.com.

In addition, Ron Bautista is running for Hudson County Commissioner for District 5, having announced his candidacy in July. The District includes Hoboken and the downtown Jersey City waterfront, currently held by Vice Chairman Anthony Romano.

Bautista, of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County, is again challenging Romano for the seat. He previously took on Romano in the primary in 2020, drawing in 38.5 percent of votes to Romano’s 61.3 percent.

Prior to that, Bautista was a candidate in a few local municipal elections. He ran for mayor of Hoboken in 2017, and for the Third Ward seat on the City Council in 2019. Since then, Bautista has been involved with progressives in Hudson County, being the President of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County until just before announcing his campaign.

Ron Bautista is running for County Commissioner in District 5. Photo courtesy of his campaign website.

Bautista is running on a platform of “empowering everyday people, holistic public safety, and tackling the climate crisis,” including: easy budgeting and accountable government; fair rents and legal representation for all tenants; a Hudson County for people of all incomes; equity and inclusion for people with disabilities; no profiteering from immigrant family separation; safer streets for kids and for all; social services to prevent the criminalization of communities; addressing the mental health crisis; accountability and transparency in public safety; fighting for 100 renewable energy by 2030; and increase green, planted areas by 2030.

“When politicians are owned by political party bosses and big corporate donors, they’re afraid to address homelessness, fight for cleaner air and safer streets for everyone,” Bautista said. “We need a County Commissioner with the courage to serve everyday people, not the politicians.”

For more information about his campaign, go online to ronbautistanj.com.

They’re also fielding a County Executive challenger too

There is also a progressive challenger for the County Executive seat. Eleana Little, a community organizer and environmental engineer, has announced her candidacy. Little is the former vice president of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County, as well as the former president of the Harsimus Cove Association.

A longtime resident of Hudson County, Little is running on a platform focused on “the struggles faced by everyday people,” such as rising rents, flooding, crime, and affordability. She also aims to prioritize affordable housing, transit infrastructure and safe streets, water and environmental infrastructure, educational infrastructure, and public health infrastructure, which she said is needed for livable communities.

According to Little, she doesn’t take any money from corporate political action committees (PACs), real estate developers, or political bosses. She said her campaign is powered by “everyday people who believe that it’s time for a change in Hudson County.”

Eleana Little is running for County Executive. Photo courtesy of her campaign.

Most recently, Little unsuccessfully ran for Hudson County Commissioner in 2020. Although she was not on the “county line,” meaning endorsed by the Hudson County Democratic Organization, she came close to beating Yraida Aponte-Lipski in the 4th District but ultimately lost by nearly a nine point margin with 4,117 votes for Aponte-Lipski to 3,397 votes for Little.

Little’s announcement came with the backing of former progressive candidate for the 8th Congressional District Hector Oseguera. Incumbent County Executive Tom DeGise is retiring in 2023 and he and the rest of the Hudson County Democratic Organization have backed his long time Chief of Staff Craig Guy to succeed him.

Little will face off against Guy in June, after he officially kicked off his campaign in September. It was expected that progressives would field some candidates for the June Primary, but it now appears a full slate may be forming to take on establishment Democrats at the county level ahead of the November General Election.

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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