Eyeing a showdown with U.S. Senator Bob Menendez next June, Roselle Park Mayor Joe Signorello decided to wade into enemy waters on Saturday when he attended a Jersey City fundraiser for progressive Hudson County challengers.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Hudson County politics I’ve only seen from the outside in Union County. As a Democrat, I don’t fully understand how the Hudson County Democrats operate: from my understanding, it’s not the most transparent process to get the party line here,” Signorello said in an interview.
“So I wanted to see what the opposition party is doing to A. try and change that and B. organize on the face of that.”
Signorello is no stranger to uphill battles, winning his current office in 2018 despite Roselle Park being a red municipality at that point and then getting re-elected last year.
In between in 2021, he ran against Republican state Senator Jon Bramnick in the 21st Legislative District and ended up losing by a margin of about 46.4 to 53.6.
With that in mind, defeating New Jersey’s senior senator remains an extremely tall order despite another U.S. Department of Justice probe underway.
While Hudson will be just about impossible to win off the line, something Signorello acknowledged, he said forging alliances with the progressive wing of the party could pay dividends in closing the gap.
“I don’t anticipate getting the Democrats support in Hudson County, I’m certainly going to try – at least the normal Democratic organization – but look, Bob Menendez, he won by a lot in Hudson County six years ago and a lot in Essex County six years ago,” he explained.
“He didn’t win and lost a lot of counties everywhere else. I think if I’m gonna do this, I need Hudson County to be a big part of that and it starts with a grassroots movement and that’s what these folks are building here.”
He also was realistic about the fact that institutional support against Menendez, in Hudson and beyond, would be tough to come by, but that doesn’t make the odds insurmountable in his eyes.
” … Absolute power corrupts absolutely in a lot of places. Look, even though he’s the favored son of Hudson, there’s a lot of people that are frustrated with the way things are going in New Jersey.”
Menendez, a former Union City mayor, state assemblyman, and congressman, has proven to be resilient, overcoming federal corruption charges in 2018 related to taking trips and gifts from friend and donor Solomon Melgen.
The case ended in a hung jury and also led to the senator being admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee.
In the event he faces another indictment as the DOJ looks at his connection to a halal food company based out of Edgewater that is the only certifier for meat products exported to Egypt, Signorello signaled that he wouldn’t be shaken by other “big name” Democrats entering the mix.
“I would also say that any of those Dems that want to get involved this time around, I’d really ask where they’ve been the past six years when this nonsense was going on throughout,” he noted.
“So potentially, I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees him as vulnerable, but I’m gonna fight for this race, not just because I think Bob Menendez is bad, but because I think I’d make a heck of a senator.”
As far as policy goes, he came out against the $10.6 billion New Jersey Turnpike expansion effort that has the support of Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
“As northern New Jersey gets more and more dense, we need to talk about what makes sense for this dense area as a whole. I don’t think that any of our representatives have really thought about that,” the mayor explained.
“And I think, as a matter of fact, Hudson County residents were thought of secondarily. One of the things that comes to mind is the Turnpike expansion with Hudson County, right? I’d much rather see that money spent to expand [Hudson-Bergen] Light Rail services, expand bus services, versus making a highway double what it is when we’re trying to keep cars off the road, right?”
When asked if he identified as a progressive Democrat, he said that he is favor of Medicare for All, also stating that college should be “way more subsidized than it is.”
“I think I could be a really good translation of what the progressives ideals are and how the rubber could hit the road here in New Jersey and America,” he added.
Signorello is actually the second Democrat to announce plans to challenge Menendez in the June 2024 primary, with drug and alcohol counselor Christina Khalil filing to run back in November.