The ‘Power List’ Our annual ranking of Hudson County’s most influential
HUDSON REPORTER by Al Sullivan Reporter Staff Writer Feb 12, 2017
The status of each of Hudson County’s most influential people rises and falls from year to year. Influence can mean different things, not only political power. Artists, activists, and not-for-profits influence the lives of the public over the course of the year.
Each January, our editorial staff spends several meetings ranking the county’s most influential people. This is our fifth annual list. Last year saw dramatic changes in nearly every way – shifts in influence, scandals, and truces – setting the stage for events that are to unfold in 2017.
1. State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco (3 last year) Nicholas Sacco returns to the top of this year’s list partly because, like Union City Mayor Brian Stack, he remains a consistently powerful force in a year when many up-and-coming powerbrokers have declined in influence. Both Sacco and Stack wield significant influence beyond the boundaries of their districts, such as delivering blocks of votes that will help determine the next governor of the state. Sacco’s most direct influence is on other north Hudson towns like Guttenberg and West New York. While Sacco’s influence statewide depends on the fortunes of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Sacco still has strong allies including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Rep. Albio Sires, and other mayors. Fulop’s decision not to run for governor this year reduces Sacco’s influence on the state level, however, where he was expected to name one or more of Fulop’s cabinet members.
2. State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack (5 last year) Stack will be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming year. Although celebrated for the 30,000 turkeys his civic association delivered during the holidays, Stack’s real power is his ability to deliver votes, including to the governor. Stack’s influence, too, will be felt heavily in Jersey City and Hoboken, both of which will see municipal elections this year. Also an ally of Fulop, Stack could help secure votes for Fulop’s candidates in Ward C and D, which are currently occupied by opposition council members.
3. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (1 last year) With his trial slated to start some time early this year, Robert Menendez's immediate future looks uncertain, having been indicted by the federal Department of Justice for allegedly helping a political contributor in exchange for gifts. But unless convicted, Menendez remains one of the most powerful people in Hudson County, influencing nearly every municipality. His opposition to the Iran Nuclear deal last year and normalization of relations with Cuba gives him significant sway with the incoming president, since these were issues on which Donald Trump campaigned. Menendez could become a voice of reason on issues like women’s rights, healthcare, and LGBT rights. A Cuban-American, he is already a spokesperson for immigrant rights at a time when immigrants appear to be under attack. He continues to influence other Hudson County leaders, including Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Sires, Rep. Donald Payne, and through his surrogate Donald Scarinci, Mayor Felix Roque.
4. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (2 last year) Although he lost some influence after his sudden decision not to run for governor, as mayor of the largest city in Hudson County and soon to be the largest city in the state, Steven Fulop remains hugely influential. Jersey City has become the center of ethnic diversity and has been rated one of the most welcoming cities in the nation for the LGBT community. With Jersey City leading the state in new development, Fulop oversees a lot of the state’s job creation. The city has become a tourist destination and a home for refugees from New York City’s escalating housing costs who are settling along the waterfront, in Journal Square, and The Heights. Up for reelection in 2017, Fulop will likely improve his relationships with various communities, including labor and the arts.