Although the loudest primary battle in Hudson County this spring is between Democrats vying for the nomination in the 31st Assembly District, many other contests will be settled on June 6 when the polls close. Primary elections allow political parties to nominate candidates to face off against each other in the general election in November.
Most of the conflicted battles will be for state Assembly and county freeholder nominations, although local voters will also be able to pick a candidate for governor from both political parties.
Partly because of state and local teachers’ union involvement, the Democratic primary in the 31st District has drawn the most attention, especially in Jersey City.
The Jersey City Education Association (JCEA) initially endorsed Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, who is seeking a second term in the state Assembly representing the district encompassing Bayonne and parts of Jersey City.
But the JCEA later withdrew the endorsement claiming Chiaravalloti was being supported by a conservative nonprofit organization, Better Education 4 NJ Kids (BE4NJK). According to union representatives, BE4NJK supports vouchers, charter schools, and privatization, all policies the union opposes.
Shelly Skinner, executive director of BE4NJK, said this was a misrepresentation. “Those are not our positions.”
The JCEA, however, maintained its endorsement of Kristen Zadroga-Hart, a teacher who has worked with the union over the last several Board of Education elections in Jersey City.
Zadroga-Hart is running with Chris Munoz, a member of the Bayonne Board of Education.
The withdrawal of the union endorsement came after BE4NJK distributed literature in Bayonne and Jersey City supporting Chiaravalloti and his running mate, Angela McKnight, who have the endorsement of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
In most cases, candidates that are supported by the HCDO do well in the Democratic primary, and this year in Jersey City, the ticket includes Phil Murphy for governor, and State Senators Sandra Cunningham and Brian Stack who are seeking re-election in the fall.
In the 31st District Republican primary, candidates are running unopposed. Herminio Mendoza is seeking the nomination for state senator, and Michael J. Alonso and Lauren DiGiaro for state Assembly.
challenges for governor and other state seats
Phil Murphy has been endorsed by the HCDO, numerous labor and teachers unions, and most legislative and municipal leaders, but he is being challenged by some powerful legislative personalities.
Although Murphy is seen as the frontrunner in this race, the credentials of his opponents are in some cases impressive. Jim Johnson is a former U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement. John Wisniewski, is a state assemblyman and former chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. Raymond Lesniak is a state senator and former chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. Mark Zinna is Tenafly borough council president. William Brennan is an activist and former firefighter.
The Republican primary for governor is also in dispute.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who ran with the now-extremely unpopular Gov. Christopher Christie, is being challenged by Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, polls show is slightly behind her in the race.
Relatively close behind is Joseph R. Rullo, a businessman who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2012, and whose platform is modeled after President Donald Trump. Other candidates include Hirsh Singh, a businessman and engineer, and Steven Rogers, a municipal commissioner in Nutley.
Jersey City does not have partisan political elections on the municipal level. Nevertheless, Jersey City voters will have a say in the primaries in the 33rd District, which includes nearly half of Jersey City, although State Senator Brian Stack and Assembly members Raj Mukerji and Annette Chaparro are running unopposed, and so are the Republican candidates, Paul Castelli, who is running for state senate, and Ann M. Corletta and Barholomew J. Talamini for state assembly.
Democratic candidate for county clerk E. Junior Maldonado is also running unopposed. The one race with a contest is between Republican candidate Blake Lichtenberger of North Bergen and Charles Shepard of Bayonne.
Freeholder primary is a mixed bag
Of the nine freeholder seats up this year, four are in Jersey City. Freeholder Bill O’Dea is running unopposed in District 2, but three of the seats are the focus of Democrat primary battles.
Jerry Walker is being challenged being challenged by Andrew Kemp in District 3. Walker has the support of the HCDO, and would replace outgoing Freeholder Gerald Balmir, who chose not to seek reelection this year.
Board of Education President Joel Torres is being challenged by Imtiaz Syed in District 4. Torres also has the HCDO support, but Syed is a popular figure with strong ties to Jersey City municipal government.
Freeholder Anthony L. Romano is being challenged by Patricia Waiters and Adela Rohena in District 5. Romano’s district also covers Hoboken. Waiters is a community activist in Hoboken and Jersey City.
Al Sullivan may be reached at [email protected].