In New Jersey, school board trustees volunteer their time if elected to serve, one of many reasons which makes it so unusual that outgoing Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas managed to become a human headline reel in 2019.
2019 Feuds of the Year
10. Dina Grilo vs. Joe Smith
An East Newark mayoral primary is never going to be the biggest draw, even among Hudson insiders. Nevertheless, the previously unelected Grilo defeated the 32-year incumbent to become the borough’s first female mayor.
9. Peter Franco vs. Neil Carroll
While there were four competitors in this one, Mayor Jimmy Davis and his troops were hell bent on making sure the 1st Ward councilman didn’t get unseated by their most definitive adversary. While Carroll won easily, it doesn’t appear that Franco is calling it quits yet.
8. Nick Sacco vs. Larry Wainstein
As they often say in Hollywood, the sequel is rarely as good as the original and that was the case here. While the now defunct power plant plan made for some occasionally fun fodder, this contest looked a lot like 2015 otherwise with Sacco scoring even bigger numbers.
7. NBC I-Team vs. the Sacco administration
In 2019, many up north would agree that Jonathan Dienst has been a much better foil for Sacco than Wainstein. The news network ran stories on the housing authority, BOE, and potential election fraud, with North Bergen returning fire in a few instances.
6. Felix Roque vs. Gabriel Rodriguez
A relatively short campaign, this certainly would’ve ranked higher if it had lasted longer. Roque and Rodriguez argued about security cameras, police tactics, “felons” involved in the race and also delivered one of the most chaotic governmental meetings of all time.
5. Ravi Bhalla vs. Mike DeFusco/the city council majority
While the mayor wasn’t on the ballot, he lost in four of the five wards that he contested, with DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher, Ruben Ramos, and Jen Giattino all staving off opponents backed by Bhalla and his predecessor Dawn Zimmer. In the aftermath, DeFusco has all but declared a 2021 rematch.
4. Frank Raia vs. the U.S. Attorney’s Office
Oddly, the Hoboken elections that got the most fanfare date back to 2013, since that is when federal prosecutors alleged politico Frank Raia paid low-income residents to fill out vote-by-mail ballots. He has since been convicted and sentenced, leaving everyone to wonder: who’s next?
3. Airbnb vs. Steven Fulop et. al
While Airbnb dumped $4.2 million into Jersey City, it wasn’t nearly enough to stop a Jersey City Democratic Organization operation that had support of the likes of Phil Murphy, Sandra Cunningham, Brian Stack, and dozens of others. A big win for Fulop and majority of the city council.
2. Change for Children vs. Education Matters
Speaking of big bucks in Jersey City, this one was actually the most expensive in state history, with nearly $705,000 raised. Aided by a Lefrak-backed super PAC, Change Your Children beat Sudhan Thomas with a barbed wire baseball bat (though he hit back too) and picked up two out of five seats.
As unkind as the school board race was to Thomas, that was nothing compared to the charges Attorney General Gurbir Grewal uncorked on him earlier this month: accusing him of soliciting $35,000 worth of bribes from a cooperating witness.
In typical unprecedented and unpredictable fashion, Thomas blamed most of it on McGreevey: who he swears holds a major grudge after getting him removed from the Jersey City Employment & Training Program.
Thomas, who succeeded McGreevey for about six months, insists the former governor left the agency in ruin. McGreevey says he’s got it backwards. Now, the AG’s office is in the driver’s seat as Thomas will remain in the spotlight a little longer – for better or for worse.