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Re: Political Insider Column -- Jersey Journal: The HCDO is sinking in a political maelstrom
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I'm sorry. I lost the part about who was working for the citizens. Where was that part?

Posted on: 2007/2/7 14:31
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Political Insider Column -- Jersey Journal: The HCDO is sinking in a political maelstrom
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Political Insider Column - Jersey Journal: The HCDO is sinking in a political maelstrom
==================================

The HCDO is sinking in a political maelstrom
Political Insider Column - Jersey Journal - Wed, 07

O n Saturday, four leaders of the Hudson County Democratic Organization met secretly in Bayonne, another stayed away for strategic reasons but was an integral part of the planning, and what they decided will more than likely bring about the political civil war that most officials in the county had hoped to avoid.

The meeting was the catalyst for a split within the HCDO that will more than likely create two Democratic tickets that will clash for supremacy in this year's primary.

Saturday's quartet was Bayonne Mayor and state Sen. Joe Doria, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, and HCDO Chairman and Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny of Hoboken. The absent party was North Bergen Mayor and state Sen. Nick Sacco, who stayed away for strategic reasons, but might as well have been present.

State Assemblyman Lou Manzo of Jersey City and Healy Chief of Staff Carl Czaplicki were at the session in Doria's Bayonne office, but both were asked to leave. In Manzo's case, it was because part of the discussion involved him.

This meeting took place for several reasons. One was that it was an extension of many months of trying to save Kenny's Senate seat, which is being sought by Union City Mayor and Assemblyman Brian P. Stack. Kenny kept mum about what he intends to do except that whatever he does would be "to the benefit of the HCDO."

Another was Doria's concern over who will be the Assembly candidates with him in the 31st District. Right now it is incumbents Manzo and Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Charles Epps. Doria faces a challenge for his seat from Jersey City Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham's widow, Sandra Bolden Cunningham, who has Bayonne City Councilman Anthony Chiappone as one of her running mates and the other yet to be named. Some county and local officials believe the action on Saturday may actually strengthen Cunningham's candidacy.

As for Healy, he is concerned about who will run with Doria and desires to become the future chairman of the HCDO. The Jersey City mayor would love to see Manzo dumped and refuses to approve former City Council President L. Harvey Smith and prefers county Freeholder Jeff Dublin as the other Assembly candidate. Both Manzo and Smith were unsuccessful opponents of Healy for mayor. Doria is going along with Healy because he needs his support in the Senate race.

County officials say Sacco is interested because he has promised Healy support for the HCDO chairmanship and would prefer that no other elected officials be perceived as all powerful, particularly in North Hudson, where Stack may reach Musto and Menendez status should he become a state senator. Senatorial courtesy is a powerful tool and could be used to have a big say in important appointments, including the Hudson County prosecutor.

The odd man in the Bayonne session is DeGise, who must be concerned that this whole thing may threaten his own position. He has on more than one occasion voiced support for Manzo and would prefer the county was on an even keel instead of about to capsize. And what happens should his chief of staff, Jersey City Heights Councilman Bill Gaughan, be offered a chance to run for an Assembly seat in the 32nd District - with those Democrats other than the Bayonne group? Gaughan has been denied a chance in the past to run for the state slot now filled by Assemblywoman Joan Quigley by the present HCDO leaders.

While few knew of the Saturday Bayonne war planning session, the big tip off came Monday, when the HCDO hierarchy got former Newark Mayor and state Sen. Sharpe James to introduce a reform bill on dual job holding amending the one that called for an end to the practice in February 2008.

The James version amended the bill to end dual job holding immediately. It was approved yesterday by the Senate in a bid by Democrats to stave off Assembly challengers who want to take on incumbent senators this year. The obvious target was Stack.

So how did this amended bill come about?

In a stealth operation, the Hudson delegation planned to get more than enough votes for the James amended measure - enough for Hudson senators to vote against it and look as if they had nothing to do with it. Unfortunately for them, a member of Doria's caucus talked too much about the strategy - to Stack. As a result, the amended bill is not expected to see the light of day in the Assembly thanks to Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts and other interested state power brokers.

Members of the Bayonne group were busy Mondy night and yesterday calling other Hudson County politicians to tell them they had nothing to do with the amended bill and that they even voted against it. They told Stack that they were innocent, a claim that apparently further infuriated the Union City politician.

Despite months of talk among Democrats, including Gov. Jon Corzine, about working things out, there were very few if any negotiations. Instead, a line has been drawn in the sand. It appears that Stack and a number of others are more than willing to step across it.

This has major ramifications for the Hoboken administration, which has obviously thrown their lot in with the Bayonne group in a bid to save Kenny. Stack (or his proxy) is expected to survive any election fight and carry the Assembly votes in the 33rd District. To placate the HCDO, he was expected to select Hoboken Councilman Ruben Ramos as his Assembly running mate. After Monday, it is doubtful anyone aligned with Kenny would be tabbed.

Where he once would have preferred to stay out of Hoboken politics, Stack could make things difficult for the Mile Square City administration by asking someone like Michael Russo to be his Assembly running mate and help a future Russo run for mayor.

The head of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, 20th District Assemblyman Joe Cryan of Union, is expected to get involved in mediating the dispute, but he was expected to do that several months ago. He was less than talkative about the divided Hudson Dems. Cryan would only say: "Everyone has an interest not to have a war."

Posted on: 2007/2/7 13:38
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