A third special interest group has entered the Hoboken City Council races in the 11th hour, with a Friday mailer marking the first time a candidate backed by Mayor Ravi Bhalla has been attacked by a third party entity ahead of Tuesday’s elections.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Phil Cohen and big developers: perfect together, wrong for Hoboken,” says a mailer paid for by Hackensack-based non-profit New Jersey Democracy in Action.
The group also calls Cohen “a cog of the political machine” and criticizes him for being endorsed by The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, which has a super PAC branch called Stronger Foundations – which backed Bhalla for mayor in 2017.
Also, the flier didn’t ask 5th Ward voters to support either of Cohen’s opponents, Nicola Maganuco or Tim Crowell, simply asking them to “say no to Phil Cohen.”
Cohen seemed undeterred by the flier in a brief phone interview this morning, though questioned the motivations of whoever was behind it.
“I think it’s interesting that the PACs that have been supportive of our campaign have been highlighting our candidates, while this is the first negative advertisement in the 5th Ward and it’s directed only against me,” he said.
“This is Hoboken politics, none of this is surprising. I’ve been knocking on doors since May, I’ve lived in Hoboken 33 years – I’m not really concerned: I’m just getting out the vote and making sure voters know Tuesday is Election Day.”
Little is known about the non-profit, other than that they played an instrumental role in pushing for runoff elections to return to Hoboken during last year’s ballot question.
Voters approved the referendum by a nearly three-to-one margin.
According to their website, “Contributions to New Jersey Democracy in Action are NOT subject to state or local pay-to-play laws and donations to the organization are not publicly disclosed according to IRS regulations.”
One of their trustees did not immediately return an email seeking comment, while the incorporator of the non-profit, Victor Mendez, could not be reached for comment.
Maganuco was the treasurer of a similar but different organization, That’s Not Democracy, a political committee that also supported bringing runoff elections back to Hoboken last year. The group only reported raising $599, according to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
With just three days remaining in this election cycle, NJDA joins NJ Community Initiatives and Stronger Foundations in trying to make an impact in the Mile Square City.
NJ Community Initiatives has committed to spending $19,420 on 1st Ward challenger Migdalia Pagan-Milano, while Stronger Foundations has been running Facebook ads for Pagan-Milano, Nora Martinez-Debenedetto, 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo and Cohen.
According to their Facebook ad library, they are currently only running ads for Cohen, Pagan-Milano and Russo and have spent less than $100 on each individual ad.
While Local 825 also endorsed 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, Stronger Foundations has not run any Facebook ads for him to date.
All six ward council seats are up for grabs when Hoboken voters head to the polls on Tuesday.