According to multiple sources, a battle is brewing within the Hudson County Democratic Organization between Hudson County Parks & Community Services Director Michelle E. Richardson and Jersey City Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman for a spot on the party line in the LD-31 Assembly race with Bayonne attorney Nicholas Chiaravalloti.
After months of speculation regarding who would replace Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31) as the Hudson County Democratic Organization-endorsed candidate, it appears a frantic backroom battle between Hudson County Parks & Community Services Director Michelle E. Richardson and Jersey City Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman has the HCDO at odds.
Insiders say the battle for the “Jersey City” spot on the HCDO ticket for New Jersey Assembly in LD-31 – running with Bayonne attorney Nicholas Chiaravalloti - reached a boiling point last week as old-guard and statewide politicos try to derail Watterman’s candidacy, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s choice for the seat.
While the clash for the seat has remained a backroom conflict, District 2 Freeholder Bill O’Dea jokingly told Richardson during the February 24, 2015 Freeholder caucus meeting that “you gotta speak up as if you were speaking before the state legislature.”
As The Jersey Journal reported on January 24th, Watterman was to receive the backing of the HCDO with Fulop’s endorsement.
While it remains unclear who the HCDO candidate will be at this time, one thing seems certain: Watterman is infuriated over the potential humiliation of being kicked off the line at the last moment, and Fulop will have a new enemy on the council if he were to back off his support of her.
Initially, Fulop’s selection of Watterman to replace Mainor caused political shock waves throughout New Jersey, including state Senator Ron Rice (D-28) telling Politicker NJ:
“You don’t even have a black mayor in Hudson County. So now you’re telling us the white mayors will determine which black elected officials get elected or returned to office,” he added. “To me, there’s a real question mark with this plantation mentality.”
Sources close to Fulop say he doesn’t want to back off from Watterman, but that statewide political forces plan to expend major campaign resources in an effort to hand the potential 2017 gubernatorial candidate an embarrassing defeat in his home district.
One source, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said a major stumbling block is that Watterman may have very limited appeal to Bayonne voters.
The pick of Richardson over Watterman is a power play by Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who has received endorsements from every Hudson mayor other than Fulop, and a victory for ex-Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria – who still has a loyal political following in the peninsula city, according to a multitude of sources.
Richardson is the wife of Hudson County Superior Court Family Division Judge Joseph Charles Jr., a Democratic former state senator from the district who was reappointed to his position by Republican Governor Chris Christie in 2010.
Judge Charles made headlines in 2009 for refusing to grant a Bayonne woman a restraining order after she testified that her Muslim husband pinched her “private areas” and forced her to have non-consensual sex, according to the Jersey Journal. The decision was eventually overturned by a state appeals court.
Richardson and Watterman declined to comment about the situation, with Watterman deferring questions to her campaign manager Eugene McKnight, while Mainor did not immediately return calls seeking comment.