While many have essentially declared Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s third term inevitable, some are still expecting her to square off with 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco in November.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I think no matter who it is, the mayor has a very strong record to run on and you can look at the two recent elections: the council and the board of education where her candidates won resoundingly,” said one source close to Zimmer.
Zimmer’s political strength was indeed on display in both instances: in the 2015 council race, four of the five candidates endorsed by the mayor won – including DeFusco.
In the November board of education race, the Forward Together team pulled off a clean sweep against a Parents United team that was endorsed by Freeholder Anthony Romano (D-5).
Another source close to Zimmer added that she has over a 70 percent approval rating (according to a recent poll), has the support of the majority of the Hudson County Democratic Organization and has a track record to stand on as far as policy is concerned.
At her most recent fundraiser earlier this week, Zimmer received resounding support from state Senator/Union City Mayor Brian Stack (D-33) and Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Phil Murphy also praised the mayor’s accomplishments.
As far as DeFusco matches up as a potential opponent, no one from the Zimmer camp was particularly interested in talking about a hypothetical matchup, but after some prodding, another source said they weren’t concerned.
“He has very low name recognition and it’s very hard to get a campaign off the ground this late in the game.”
Whispers of DeFusco seeking higher office began late last year and appeared unfounded until he became vocal at both January council meetings, voicing concerns about the appointment process for both the zoning board (which he used to be a member of) and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority.
A rift between DeFusco and the Zimmer team then seemed quite apparent when he and Councilman-at-Large Ravi Bhalla (who is running with Zimmer) scheduled fundraisers on the same day, at the same time in February.
However, both elected officials attributed the scenario to lack of communication and some bad luck, though on that night, DeFusco stopped short of endorsing Zimmer for re-election and Bhalla noted he’d be happy to support DeFusco’s 2019 re-election to the council.
A source close to DeFusco said that although the Stack and other members of the HCDO appear happy to endorse Zimmer now, that could change at a moment’s notice.
â€œIt hasnâ€™t deterred anybody [from running]. With the politicians in Hudson, theyâ€™re with you until circumstances change and theyâ€™re going to be changing.â€
DeFusco himself was dismissive of the Stack endorsement when speaking with Hudson County View last month, claiming that the North Hudson power broker was just looking out for Union City.
Supporters of DeFusco have also questioned if Stack, who is seeking re-election in the state Senate this year, will live up to his word and actually hit the streets of Hoboken.
Another interesting aspect of a potential DeFusco vs. Zimmer grudge match is Ray Ferraioli, the owner/president of H&P Consulting, LLC: one of the most well-known Democratic fundraising firms in the state.
Ferraioli, who worked with Zimmer for years, left in early 2016, shortly after the new council members were sworn in, and helped organize DeFusco’s February event at Cadillac Cantina.
Both Team Zimmer and Team DeFusco agreed that Ferraioli, who also fundraises for the Democratic State Committee and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, had an amicable split with the incumbent Mile Square City mayor.
However, another source close to Zimmer’s re-election campaign could not resist taking a parting shot.
“What you saw on Monday was not hosted by Ray Ferraioli.”
Furthermore, DeFusco’s camp has insisted that the relatively new councilman had a hallmark first quarter of fundraising in 2017, bringing in about $87,000.
The Hoboken Horse noted on Tuesday that team DeFusco had brought in close to $90,000 so far this year.
Although first quarter reports with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJ ELEC) were due on Monday, they are not expected to be available online until next week.
As far as Zimmer’s approval rating goes, the opposition believes she still does not have a strong rapport with the building trades, developers, bar owners, police, firemen and teachers in Hoboken.
Additionally, a source close to DeFusco said that her “reformer act” has grown stale and some Hoboken residents are beginning to realize it.
â€œSheâ€™s not a reformer, sheâ€™s a pretty cunning, crafty politician.â€
Currently, Zimmer’s only declared opposition is local business owner Karen Nason, though activist Ronald Bautista recently filed paperwork for a mayoral run as well.
The Hoboken municipal elections, where residents will vote for mayor and three council members-at-large, takes place on November 7.