Hoboken 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco became the first ward representative to announce he would be seeking re-election in November at a fundraiser last night.
“Listen, it’s never to soon to start campaigning for ideas and energy that we always have been working towards. When I first ran four years ago, I declared at the last minute. The same thing when I ran for mayor,” DeFusco began in an interview at The Pig and the Parrot on Hudson Street.
“It’s about bringing this community together and it’s about talking to everybody, whether they agree with me [or] disagree with me, to make that the 1st ward and Downtown Hoboken has the representation and community input that we all deserve.”
DeFusco, with the endorsement of then-Mayor Dawn Zimmer, edged out two decade incumbent Theresa Castellano in 2015 and came in a close second place to colleague Ravi Bhalla in the 2017 mayoral contest.
While he has been viewed as Bhalla’s chief antagonist ever since, the councilman said that there are a number of accomplishments he can hang his hat on during his first three years of sitting on the dais.
“Taking care of pedestrian safety on Newark Street, helming the Washington Street project, even though two administrations botched it with mismanagement, making sure that we had a voice for good government as this current administration continues to try and put the business of politics before the policy of the city,” DeFusco exclaimed.
He added that he looks forward to working with Bhalla, his council colleagues, the county and any other legislative partners when it comes to the betterment of the Mile Square City.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he and the mayor are becoming pals by any stretch of the imagination.
DeFusco originally planned to hold his campaign kickoff on January 29th, but postponed it a week since that ended up being the date of Bhalla’s first State of the City (he ended up not attending).
Then last night, while DeFusco hosted his event, Bhalla met with around 100 Marineview Plaza residents to discuss community needs, he posted on his Twitter page.
When asked if he thought Bhalla had made these recent scheduling decisions to antagonize him, DeFusco was extremely eager to weigh in.
“I think the mayor should concentrate on the business of this city and not on playing petty politics. And the end of the day, we had to reschedule this event to give the mayor the respect he deserved to conduct the State of the City,” he stated.
He then mentioned that this wasn’t the first time Bhalla had scheduled an event to compete with his: two years ago, Bhalla and DeFusco held dueling fundraisers long before most people would’ve guessed they’d be running for mayor.
“If the mayor were here, he’d see over 100 people enjoying our time together, talking about ideas, talking about working together, not trying to sow division in this community. So with the mayor it’s always about politics and elections. With me, it’s about policy and making sure we work together to get stuff done.”
City spokesman Vijay Chaudhuri was not impressed with DeFusco’s take on City Hall, also saying that respect needs to be reciprocated.
“While Mike was catering to high end donors and developers for a $300 entry fee, Mayor Bhalla was tending to constituent services for a meeting he was invited to in Mike’s own ward,” he said.
“Mike references ‘respect’ for the mayor, but demonstrates a blatant disrespect for him by constantly sabotaging the mayor’s office, attacking his staff and politicizing even the smallest of issues. His lack of respect and nasty behavior speaks for itself.”
Phil Swibinski, spokesman for DeFusco, sounded undeterred.
“Councilman DeFusco is proud of the work the City Council is doing holding Mayor Bhalla accountable for his broken promises and numerous conflicts and the Councilman won’t be bullied by the Mayor’s staff.”
Other dignitaries in attendance included Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco, Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon, North Hudson Sewerage Authority Commissioner and ex-Councilman Tony Soares, Zoning Board Commissioners Steve Smoyln, Cory Johnson, Antonio Grana and Owen MacAnuff, former Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia, among many others.