Although the Bayonne Board of Education election has two incumbents running in a race for three seats, the race may be a tight one.
Incumbents Christopher Munoz and Mikel Lawandy should have the inside track to retain their seats in what is seen as a relatively weak field of candidates.
Munoz ran for state assembly last June in the Democratic primary, which could make him the target of revenge by the Hudson County Democratic Organization that supported his opponents.
Meanwhile much of Lawndry’s accomplishments on the board are largely invisible to the general public, especially his financial detective work that allowed the board to uncover significant shortages. Lawandy is the last board member to be appointed by the mayor prior to the district reverting to an elected board system. Bayonne returned to an elected format in 2014.
The decision by Theodore Garelick not to seek reelection is also playing into the election chances of sleeper candidates.
Garelick, of course, was closely tied with former Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Patricia McGeehan, whose contract was not renewed.
Other candidates include a number of prominent citizens, but few with the name recognition of candidates who have run in the last few election cycles.
These include Michael Alonso, Sharma Montgomery, Daniel Acosta, Gene Perry, Dorothy Patterson, John Cupo, Maria Valado, and Anthony D’Amico.
Patterson, who is the pastor of a church in Bayonne, could also surprise some people since she has a strong congregation.
Alonso could be a dark horse
Alonso and Montgomery have both run previously and had respectable results. Alonso, however, came in with a higher vote count than Montgomery in last year’s election.
In some ways, Alonso strikes fear into the hearts of some people, partly because he is a Republican who may even seem too far to the right for other Hudson County Republicans.
Alonso is also running for state assembly in November, managing to get the nomination despite the best efforts of the Hudson County Republicans to derail him.
Running for two political offices at the same time appears to becoming a trend. Freeholder Anthony Romano is running for reelection and for mayor of Hoboken on the same ballot. Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver is running for reelection as well as for lieutenant governor.
Alonso’s duel election bid might just be enough to bring him victory in the Board of Education race, when most people believe he will be trounced by Democratic Assembly Incumbents Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Angela McKnight.
Chiaravalloti and McKnight have both been endorsed for reelection by the political action committee for New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). This could translate into votes for any ticket in Bayonne that Chiaravalloti chooses to back.
Stack snubbed by NJEA
The 125-member political action committee of the 200,000 member NJEA voted to endorse 97 candidates for election to the New Jersey Legislature this November.
“As we finally exit the Christie era and work to rebuild our state, it is imperative that we elect pro-public education and pro-public employee candidates,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer. “NJEA members have always been active participants in the political process, but now more than ever, we all realize the consequences of electing politicians who do not share our priorities or our values.
“Our members have met with the candidates for the Senate and Assembly and we believe these endorsed candidates share our commitment to ensuring New Jersey’s public schools will continue to lead the nation and that our members will get the relief they need from the broken promises and unintended consequences of Chapter 78.”
These legislative endorsements are in addition to the endorsement of Ambassador Phil Murphy for governor made last spring.
The NJEA endorsed Sandra B. Cunningham and Nicholas J. Sacco for state senate, and Vincent Prieto, Angelica M. Jimenez, Raj Mukherji and Annette Chaparro for assembly.
The NJEA, however, withheld its endorsement from state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
Russo may not back DeFusco after all
In what could be a major blow to the mayoral hopes of Hoboken Councilman Michael DeFusco, powerful Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo said he has not yet made up his mind who he will support in November.
Since many people assumed Russo would back DeFusco, this change of mind could be very good news for Freeholder Anthony Romano, who is among the seven candidates seeking to become mayor in November.
Until Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s surprising decision not to seek reelection last month, many believed Russo would back DeFusco as the best possible candidate to unseat Zimmer.
With the political landscape dramatically altered, Russo could become a king maker in offering his support to a particular candidate.
“I haven’t decided who I am supporting in the mayor’s race in Hoboken,” Russo said. “My priorities are and have always been to protect all of our residents. The less fortunate and the middle class have been ignored for years. Not everyone can afford a $4 million brownstone or condo. We must stop ignoring the vast majority of our residents that fall into this socioeconomic group.”
Almost sounding like a candidate for mayor himself, Russo went on to outline some of his concerns.
“We also need to address our parking and transportation across the city. It is currently a disaster,” he said. “At its worst it takes 30-40 minutes to get in and out of town each day. And when you finally get in, it is a nightmare finding parking.”
Russo said he is waiting and watching to determine who will address these concerns, including quality of life issues.
“Who best addresses these issues will earn my support and the vast majority of our neighbors here in Hoboken,” he said.
Russo also noted he will be working to help the Democratic candidate for governor.
“I will be doing everything in my power to help elect a fellow progressive Democrat as our next governor,” he said. “I along with Phil Murphy will do all in our power to stop the regression of our state and country from the failed policies of Chris Christie and Donald Trump.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at [email protected].