What do we have to look forward to in the world of politics this year? The simple answer is a handful of elections. There is a congressional race and three municipal contests in Bayonne, Union City and Weehawken.
I guess the most important, supposedly, but least interesting is the re-election effort of 8th District U.S. Rep. Albio Sires of West New York or is that the Florida golf links. Sires is good at issuing statements, announcing grants and reminding of us how far he has come to become a federal legislator. This week Sires chalked up two of the three when the Democratic congressman issued a statement on President Trump’s description of Haiti, El Salvador, and countries in Africa as ‘shithole’ countries, a comment denied by the president and reaffirmed by a Republican senator and sources. Sires often attacks Trump, again and again.
“Trump’s vulgar language is just another example of his disregard for hardworking Americans that come from all walks of life,” he announced and followed with a comment on his second skill, referencing his past. “I came to this country from Cuba as a young child and saw every day how hard my parents worked to make sure I had the opportunity for a better life. That is the same hard work I see time and again from people in my district, dedicating themselves to bettering their communities and making our country a better place for future generations.”
THE LAST TERM
There will be little if any challenge for the congressman. Sires will be blessed with a place on the Hudson County Democratic Organization ballot in the primary and November slate with the caveat that this will be his last two-year term. County leadership, the strongest of a depleted bunch — ergo Union City Mayor, state Sen. Brian Stack — will inform him that he had a great run but now it’s time to step down. This would be the polite approach.
I can promise you that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has already put the county Democrats on notice that the 8th District House seat historically belongs to Jersey City. This was true until Robert Menendez of Union City won the 1992 congressional election and served from 1993 to 2006. Sires, another North Hudson Cuban-American, took over the seat. It gives you a good clue about where the expected two-term Jersey City mayor hopes to go after his municipal service.
Of the municipal contests we have noted several times that Bayonne is where the action should be, although it is hard to tell. The election is four months away and it has been as exciting as a hard drive being cleaned – you don’t even know it’s happening. You would expect a donnybrook but you have two camps, the incumbent Mayor Jimmy Davis and challenger and former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, that in this columnist’s opinion are both poorly organized.
Davis has the tacit support of the county Dems and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise who safely endorses any incumbent mayor – nothing personal. The incumbent has the sexting scandal as a parking boot on the campaign bus but with little campaign literature pushing the issue the obstacle will be less effective in the coming months.
O’Donnell seems to have financing through union support and he plans a big fundraiser for next month. He still has to eclipse the good ol’ boy personality of Davis. In some ways O’Donnell reminds me of former Assemblyman Lou Manzo in that Manzo was always a socially shy person – until he was indicted on unsuccessful bribery charges and then he was quite public about his feelings for outgoing Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor.
Let’s skip to the Weehawken race and say that nothing changes. Mayor Richard Turner is at retirement age but doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He’s been there since 1990. As Internet commenters are fond of saying – nothing to see here.
Why even discuss the Union City election? Well, this is the year of Mayor and state Sen. Brian Stack. There’s no real opposition and he will steamroll to victory. Understand that he always runs as if there is a potential for an upset. No one rests until Election Day is over.
Stack is becoming the senior face of the new generation of elected Democratic Party officials. There is probably not a more powerful elected official north of New Brunswick. His status will be solidified with his expected election as head of the county Democratic Party in June.
Don’t think so? Let’s see how soon new Gov. Phil Murphy visits Union City. Since Stack came to office, the road to Trenton always includes a stop in the North Hudson municipality.
Wednesday’s Jersey City council meeting seemed a calm mundane event even though there were four new members of the legislative branch of local government. Facing the dais, the quartet were all sitting together on the left side of the panel.
On the surface, first impressions were of a group naturally feeling their way through the process. Councilwomen Denise Ridley of Ward A and Mira Prinz-Arey, Ward B, and Councilman Jermaine Robinson, Ward F, and James Solomon, Ward E. The rookies are very deliberate in their reasoning and reviewing of resolutions and proposed ordinances.
This council could make for interesting dynamics because Fulop intends to serve his last term as mayor. It’s a bit like saying he’s pulling the troops out and gave a date for the withdrawal, leaving the council members to fend for themselves. Essentially they are serving with could be tantamount to a lame duck mayor.
It’s this columnist’s opinion that the two-year term limitation he set for himself was a Fulop mistake. As progressive as it sounded at the time, it now hobbled his influence over the council which essentially begins what looks like a four-year season of the TV show “Survivor.”
There should be alliances on the council or at least a close consultation among a yet to be determined number of people who will want to distance themselves from the mayor – particularly among those interested in replacing Fulop. Naturally the legislative clique will find a way to send a subtle public message that it is they and not the administration driving the city’s future. For example, a piece of legislation pushed by the mayor, perhaps a tax abatement or some other project, may get some pushback.
There will be no St. Crispin’s Day speech. Right now, those with the best organizations in their wards are likely to gravitate toward each other. Begin with the two most anti-administration council members, Heights Councilman Michael Yun and Journal Square’s Rich Boggiano.
If you had to pick the next two highly motivated representatives who could form a bloc of votes, I’d first pick Solomon. Then possibly, I’m sure surprisingly to some, Council President Rolando Lavarro who still would love to upgrade his title to mayor. To many observers this scenario is no shock.
This is not to say that the City Council could not work with the mayor in his alleged last term. After all, they are all progressive Democrats on the same nonpartisan bus.
— On Thursday we had both the outgoing governor of the New Jersey, Chris Christie, and newly elected Gov. Phil Murphy in Jersey City.
Early in the afternoon Christie swore in Anne Marie Bramnick as a state Superior Court judge at the William J. Brennan Court House. The governor had nominated her to the bench last month. If the name is familiar it is because she is the daughter-in-law of Republican 21st Legislative District Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick. The new judge is also the daughter of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Anne Estabrook who dropped out of the Senate primary race because of health reasons.
Later in the afternoon, at the Hudson County reorganization meeting, Gov. Brown, I mean Murphy, swore in fellow Democrat and former Freeholder E. Junior Maldonado to the office of county clerk. If you’re wondering, Fulop swore in last year’s school board president Joel Torres who fills the seat on the Board of Freeholders held by Maldonado.
Former Democratic Gov. Richard Codey, a Seton Hall University basketball fan, helped swear in Jersey City’s Jerry Walker as a county freeholder.
— U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez has been busy making the rounds and meeting Huson County leaders, some at his favorite IHOP restaurant in Union City. Is he just being friendly or is Menendez trying to reestablish his relevancy as a heavyweight leader of the Hudson County Democratic Party? Let’s see what develops.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Agustin C. Torres’ columns appear on the nj.com opinion website on Saturdays and occasionally in the print edition of The Jersey Journal. Submit letters to the editor and guest columns at [email protected]