While most voters in Hudson County probably couldn’t tell you what a freeholder does leading up to the June 3 Democratic Primary Election, that didn’t matter when Freeholder Chairman Jose Munoz (D-7) had to defend his seat not only against WNY Commissioner Caridad Rodriguez, but the entire Hudson County Democratic Organization.
Everyone who knows anything about Hudson County politics knew that Munoz was going to be in for the fight of his life in June after Felix Roque beat federal hacking charges last October, per NJ.com.
Munoz, the youngest freeholder in Hudson County history (27) was sworn in back in Dec. 2007 and previously had the political backing of both state Sen./Union City Mayor (D-33) Brian Stack and state Sen./North Bergen Mayor (D-32) Nick Sacco (at different time periods).
However, it was made abundantly clear he would not have either of those luxuries in 2014 when Rodriguez, also a former assemblywoman, practically had to have the HCDO form a line around the block in February for all the politicians who wanted to show their support for Rodriguez.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), Roque, Sacco, Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff, County Executive Tom DeGise, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8), Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-33) all endorsed Rodriguez in one form or another on that fateful day.
While Munoz had to realize he was likely a dead man walking at this juncture, he wasn’t about to throw in the towel early, waging battles against then-WNY Business Administrator Joe DeMarco all the way up to Sires.
Along with a public endorsement from WNY Commissioner Count Wiley, Munoz looked like he had a fighting chance heading into the summer showdown with Rodriguez.
However, Sires, who was also running in the primary, repaid the favor of getting called out by shaking hands and kissing babies alongside Rodriguez – his old chief of staff – on election day.
Sources even revealed that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) made robocalls on behalf of Rodriguez on that hot summer day, all but sealing Munoz’s fate as he was significantly outnumbered at the polls by dozens of loyal HCDO soldiers whose sole missions was to get the vote out for the ticket.
Although Caridad only won by about 250 votes in West New York, she won by just under 800 votes overall – a roughly 60 percent to 40 percent margin of victory.
Rodriguez gave a tearful goodbye to her West New York constituents at this month’s board of commissioners meeting:
As for Munoz, West New Yorkers are waiting on the edges of their seats to see if he will announce a third (and the second anti-Roque) ticket next week in another attempt to take out his archival politically once and for all in May, even though the Wiley has already unveiled the West New York United slate.
Some believe it won’t happen due to Munoz’s money woes, while others say it’s inevitable given his passion for political scuffles – especially when it means going head-to-head with Roque.