Hoboken 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco said that the “stakes couldn’t be higher” in this fall’s at-large council races, also ruling out a rematch with Mayor Ravi Bhalla in an email blast this morning.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Citing “callous and destructive attacks on my personal life from the Mayor and his allies continued at a feverish pace,” he said that he’ll forgo a run for mayor this time around in order to preserve checks and balances on the council.
” … In this unprecedented election, when the Mayor’s seat may be uncontested, it has never been more important to have diverse and unique voices on the City Council. If all three of the Mayor’s handpicked candidates win, including two incumbents, he will have a five vote majority who will rubber stamp his agenda without any opportunity for questions or challenges,” he wrote.
“A Mayor with a City Council that doesn’t question policy is terrible for good, representative government and this will translate to more out of scale development, increased legal costs, unnecessary litigation, and once federal stimulus funds run out… more taxes.”
DeFusco joins his colleagues Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher and Jen Giattino in asking for independent candidates to challenge Bhalla’s ticket.
Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle rejoined the mayor’s slate over the weekend after he announced his running mates on Wednesday, with Doyle filling in for Dini Ajmani.
Independents Cheryl Fallick, Sheila Brennan, and Paul Presinzano, a potential slate, are expected to run, while Pat Waiters and Cindy Wiegand picking up petitions of nomination, according to the city clerk’s office.
They also noted that e-petitions would not be accepted in the Mile Square City this time around. The filing deadline is August 30th at 4 p.m.
With DeFusco, Fisher, and Giattino ruling out mayoral runs, Bhalla is likely to run unopposed – an outcome that has been widely expected for months.
The Downtown councilman explains how he came to this conclusion.
“Many know me as a passionate and effective politician, but at times over the past few years, politics became a toxic force in my life. Mental health isn’t something you typically hear those in elected office talk about but today, it’s a topic I want to address,” he wrote.
“I’ll be honest, when I lost the 2017 mayoral election by 400 votes after being wrongfully associated with a racist attack on the now Mayor, it impacted me dramatically.”
As has been well-documented over the years, a midnight flyer with Bhalla’s picture said “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town!” with the paid for line attributing the racist campaign literature to his campaign back in October 2017.
He was quick to deny any involvement and the no one has ever been charged in connection to the incident, though both Bhalla and DeFusco joined a call in March asking the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office in asking for an investigation.
While DeFusco spearheaded the effort to bring back runoff elections in 2018 and continued to be Bhalla’s fiercest political opponent into last year, the councilman said his personal life and mental health suffered – gaining 40 pounds and ending an eight-year relationship.
Back in April, he faced flak from a few colleagues for renting his home on Airbnb during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some also targeting him for a trip to Colombia.
In his email blast today, DeFusco said that while deciding to concentrate “more on policy and less on political noise,” as well as investing in his family, health, and career.
“This investment has paid off — I was nominated for two Emmy Awards, regained strength through daily workouts, spent more time with my aging parents and young nieces, and expanded my advocacy efforts volunteering at an LGBTQ+ center in Colombia for Venezeulan migrant youth.”