After another crazy, chaotic year in Hudson County politics, it’s worth taking a look back and evaluating who had the most sway from behind the curtain.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
2018 Hudson County Power List: Non-elected Officials
20. Susan Ragheb
The executive director of the HCDO and an aide to Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), the Bayonne native is a fresh face with a high ceiling: she’s still in her 20s, making her one of the youngest players in the Hudson hemisphere.
19. Troy Mack
A proud veteran and West New Yorker, Mack spent most of 2018 lobbying for progressive reforms ranging anywhere from the Hudson Board of Chosen Freeholders to the Statehouse. He is also now benefitting from the tutelage of Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.
18. Silvio Acosta/Manny Diaz
West New York Mayor Felix Roque’s two most trusted confidants, Acosta, the DPW superintendent (probably not for long) and Diaz are gearing up for a rock ’em, sock ’em robots style fight in 2019 that will pit the mayor against three commissioners he ran with four years ago.
17. Larry Wainstein
While Wainstein’s motives and strategy are consistently questioned, he deserves some credit for forging ahead against one of the most formidable political operations in the state of New Jersey. North Bergen’s municipal elections surely won’t disappoint next year.
16. Mark Albiez
A former chief of staff to Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Albiez was destined for the private sector after state Senator/Union City Mayor Brian Stack (D-33) failed to become HCDO chair in June. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most trusted members of Stack’s machine.
15. Stan Grossbard
Former Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s husband, how much influence Grossbard still has is largely shrouded in mystery – just the way he likes it. One thing for sure is that when he talks, Hoboken politicos listen, even if it’s under the guise of one of his online pseudonyms.
14. John Allen/Vijay Chaudhuri
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s chief of staff and communications manager, respectively, have shown a passion for political face punching, which will inevitably come in handy when the six ward council seats are up for grabs in November.
13. Gio Ahmad
The Weehawken township manager and a member of the volunteer ambulance squad, Ahmad is Turner’s right hand – responsible for both keeping Town Hall in order and keeping the mayor on track. Clearly a guy who isn’t afraid of a little responsibility.
12. Abe Antun
The Hudson County administrator is one of the few people capable of keeping all the ducks in the row for the county government. He’s also quite politically astute, a top ally of both U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and County Executive Tom DeGise.
11. Joe DeMarco
A former business administrator in Bayonne and West New York, DeMarco remains in Mayor Jimmy Davis’ inner circle, despite leaving City Hall, making him a valuable political commodity in the Peninsula City.
10. Alex Velasquez
Stack’s de facto chief of staff, Velasquez also works in the city’s health department and serves on the local board of education and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority. He is one the few entrusted with mobilizing the renowned Union City get out the vote operation.
9. Chris Pianese
North Bergen’s township manager keeps the home base (Town Hall) running smoothly and is also state Senator/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco’s (D-32) eyes and ears on the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue board.
8. Mike DeMarco
The CEO of Mack-Cali, also the brother of Joe DeMarco, has shown that he’s not afraid of a fight: he stood front and center at the battles over moving the Katyn monument and the payroll tax in Jersey City. He will inevitably be involved in many high-profile political scraps next year.
7. Ruddys Andrade
The CarePoint Health executive is one of the few Hudsonites with the ability to work a room from Bayonne to North Bergen without worrying about catching a (metaphorical) knife in his back. The fact that he’s sometimes referred to as “a Stack guy” adds to his intrigue.
6. Craig Guy
Tom DeGise’s chief of staff stepped up to the plate in getting the county exec’s daughter, Amy DeGise, elected as HCDO chair – likely preserving his boss’ job in the process. Additionally, Guy has great relationships with local leaders in labor and law enforcement: that never hurts during election season.
5. The Vision Media Team
Anchored by the father-son duo of Paul and Phil Swibinski, the Vision Media team is the most heavily utilized PR/campaign operation in Hudson and they expanded their operations into Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration in 2018.
4. Esther Suarez
This year, the county’s top law enforcement official faced her most intense scrutiny since taking over the post in September 2015, but for now, she appears to be forging ahead with great relationships with the Stack and Sacco teams in tact.
3. Katie Brennan
A top Trenton official and a Jersey City native, Brennan turned the Murphy administration upside down by levying rape allegations at another former top ally of the gov – Al Alvarez. The legislature’s special committee has barely started so how this one shakes out is anybody’s guess.
2. Joey Muniz
A top Sacco lieutenant, Muniz has ties that extend to Trenton and back, though he also has considerable pull at the county level and West New York. A big help to Team DeGise in June, his political acumen will be tested in the two must watch North Hudson elections in 2019.
1. Donald Scarinci
A managing partner at Scarinci Hollenbeck, he helped navigate a super PAC that pushed Menendez, a childhood friend, into the winner’s circle yet again. Furthermore, attorneys from his firm represent several government entities in Union City, West New York and Guttenberg.