As expected, the Hudson County Democratic Organization elected Board of Commissioners Chair Anthony Vainieri as the new head of their party, who didn’t waste any time on starting a conversation about making Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop the next governor.
The move gives North Bergen a prominent county post in light of redistricting pitting state Senato Nick Sacco (D-32), also the mayor of the township, and state Senator Brian Stack (D-33), also the Union City mayor, both in the 33rd Legislative District.
Sacco agreed to retire from the legislature and endorse Stack for re-election, with North Bergen getting to pick an Assembly seat, as HCV first reported. Vainieri emerging as the likely next HCDO chair came to the forefront a few hours later.
“We all must continue to contribute to this unity, hard work, in the face of obstacles given that old Hudson County backbone and fight when we need to ‘cuz that’s what we have,” DeGise said, thanking the hundreds of committee members on hand for their support.
DeGise was elected in 2018 in a hotly contested race against Stack and had her two-year term extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
8th District Democratic congressional nominee Rob Menendez, who won last week’s primary in a blowout, commended DeGise for her service and thanked the delegation for their continued efforts.
At that point, Bernie Kenny, a former state Senate majority leader, served ad chair pro tempore for nominations.
Vainieri received the nod as chair, Jersey City Democratic Organization Chair Barbara Stamato for vice chair, West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez as recording secretary, Kearny Mayor Al Santos as corresponding secretary, Craig Guy to remain as treasurer, and Margarita Gutierrez, of Union City, to serve as sergeant-at-arms.
No other names received a motion and an up and down vote had resounding “ayes” heard at the front of the room, confirming the nominations.
Vainieri thanked all the Hudson County mayors, the committee, and his family for their ongoing support before making some noise about the 2025 gubernatorial race.
“We’ve seen people come through Hudson County for our votes, for our money, for our service, for our hard work, knocking on doors, manning campaign headquarters and then they forget about us,” he began.
“It’s not going to happen next time around Hudson County. ‘Cuz it’s time Hudson County produces it’s own governor next time around, that’s for sure!,” he said to applause.
In an interview after the meeting concluded, Vainieri said “I want the state to know that we’re in the running” and that every local mayor has the chops to be the next governor.
“You need to be in government to know what the towns want. We need school aid, we need municipal aid for our roads, our bridges. Our taxes gotta be stable. So we need somebody in the governor’s office that understands the neighborhoods of Hudson County.”
When asked if Fulop had his support for governor in 2025, Vainieri replied “if he’s a candidate, 100 percent.”
Fulop has about $7 million raised ahead of 2025 and while no one has announced their candidacy yet, other potential Democratic candidates include Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-10).
As far as his priorities for the party, Vainieri said he wants to ensure everyone stays united, holding regular meetings with the mayors, state legislators, county commissioners, and other electeds to make sure they’re all on the same page.
Vainieri also said he wants to make a push to get East Newark and Harrison back into a Hudson County legislative district (they went to the Essex County-based 29th District in redistricting).
On the topic of the HCDO’s lackluster fundraising, said he plans on doing an event “right off the bat” and inviting people from across the state.
“Listen, probably two fundraisers a year because everyone does fundraisers. You gotta be lenient to the people: you can’t keep going to fundraisers. There’s other people out there that want to support the Hudson County Democratic Organization, bring ‘em on in, we’ll take your support.”
Finally, on the topic of next year’s state legislative races, Vainieri said he is only committed to supporting Stack at this time as discussions with the party are ongoing.