Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is pushing back against a report that he ever tried to replace Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro in the 33rd Legislative District, though also said she was once being considered as an opponent against 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco.
By Marc Bussanich and John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I support Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro 100 percent. She’s a dear friend of mine, she’s a colleague, we worked together during my first year as mayor – hand in hand – so she has my support 100 percent,” Bhalla said following an unrelated press conference where Chaparro was also present.
“As does [state] Senator [Brian] Stack support her 100 percent. There was a time where we actually considered running her in the 1st Ward against Councilman [Mike] DeFusco. And at that time, if she were to run against Councilman DeFusco in the 1st Ward, we would’ve have to find an alternative to Annette [in the assembly].”
A report in Politifax said that Bhalla had Stack’s blessing to replace Chaparro this year, as long as he was able to find another Hispanic woman interested in the elected position.
The report also said that “Bhalla insisted on a non-Hispanic,” paving the way for Chaparro to get the Hudson County Democratic Organization line again in the June 4th primary.
This led to a statement being released from LUPEPAC President Patricia Campos-Medina earlier today, blasting Bhalla for even considering such a move.
“With Latina representation still severely lacking in our State Legislature, it is extremely disappointing that Mayor Ravi Bhalla is attempting to replace a sitting Latina legislator with a non-Latina candidate,” she said.
“Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro has represented her constituents, the residents of one of the most heavily Hispanic districts in the state, with integrity and intelligence.”
Several sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said Rachel Hodes, a member of the Hoboken Democratic Committee’s executive committee and the wife of Jason Freeman, Bhalla’s deputy chief of staff, expressed an interest in the assembly position if Chaparro was not seeking re-election.
However, Bhalla said the sentiment from LUPE PAC was inaccurate, reiterating that Chaparro was not going anywhere unless she decided to challenge DeFusco, the mayor’s chief political nemesis.
“We had no intentions of replacing her, except for the option of considering running her in the 1st Ward against Councilman Michael DeFusco. So it was during that time where we might have had to find a replacement,” he continued.
“The only intention to replace her would’ve been if she ran in the 1st Ward, that didn’t happen and we’re very proud that she’s agreed to continue to serve in the assembly.”
As far as why Chaparro did not end up seeking the 1st Ward council seat, which is up in November, Bhalla cited “an internal collaborative process” that ended when Chaparro decided she was a better fit in the assembly.