LETTER: ‘Deeply personal & misleading attacks’ in Hoboken BOE race undeserved, councilman says


In a letter to the editor, Hoboken 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco explains why he feels the “deeply personal and misleading” attacks are undeserved in the non-partisan November 8th board of education race.

Dear Editor,

Shortly after I was elected to City Council in 2016, a Board of Education Trustee who is now associated with the “Leaders That Listen” campaign texted a disparaging homophobic remark about me on a group text with other BOE officials.

As a gay man, and the first LGBTQ+ elected in Hoboken, that comment hurt deeply.

Six years later, the current BOE majority: a group of electeds that has gone unchallenged for years seemingly hasn’t learned that name calling and bullying is divisive and destructive.

Over the last two weeks Hoboken voters received two hate-filled mailers from the “Leadership That Listens’ team that has falsely characterized their “Kids First” opposition with QAnon and the far right.

Now, it’s possible to disagree with opponents, even call them out, but to use false character assassinations is everything thats wrong with politics today.
I know what that feels like.

I ran for mayor in 2017 and three days before polls opened, a racist flier was illegally distributed using my name, attacking the current mayor.

I was called a bigot, my family received hate calls and the story was published in national and international press disparaging my reputation. I lost that election by 400 votes.

Like clockwork, it happened again in 2019 when I ran for reelection and a pro-development super PAC sent out a series of mailers absurdly associating me, a liberal Democrat, with Donald Trump.

Simultaneously, a blogger mocked me for being gay, an action denounced by The Victory Fund – a national LGBTQ+ organization.

By the start of the pandemic politics had become such a toxic force in my life that I needed to take time away to concentrate on my career and family.

This is why it is personally frustrating for me to see the same unnecessary attacks being leveled on three three young candidates on the “Kids First” slate – two mothers and the former student body president at Rutgers University.

These upstart candidates may not be perfect, but in a non-partisan race, they don’t deserve these deeply personal and misleading attacks.

Negative campaigning intended to assassinate an opponent’s character, name, and family is now the norm in Hoboken and voters must demand a change.

Elections should be about ideas and bringing people together through consensus, not false attacks and fear mongering.

Supporting “Leadership that Listens” only serves to normalize divisive campaign tactics and encourages future candidates to do the same.

If we don’t stand up against the toxicity taking over our elections, we will stop seeing young people – those with new energy and new ideas, from throwing their hat into the political ring out of fear of attack and ridicule.

Let’s use this election to stand up against the political negativity sweeping the country: it doesn’t belong in Hoboken.

Mike DeFusco
City of Hoboken

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  1. Since when is accurately saying someone’s a MAGA/Trump supporter a “deeply personal and misleading attack”? People reap what they sow. If they can’t stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen, etc.

    • There is nothing inaccurate in what Mike wrote. Sure he left details out on the Ravi Terror Flier. Not his fault. Ravi and his Big Construction 🚧 union buddies got away with it. Ravi feasts on hate and division. Rinse, repeat.

  2. 5 years ago DeFusco accepted Sobolov’s apology and called it a “teaching moment” to “bring our community together.”


    Now he’s purposefully pulled off the scab of his “forgiveness” to DIVIDE the community, to smear Sobolov on behalf of Branco, who is fighting a proxy war on the LTL endorsers.

    Of course, DeFusco is too shallow and stupid to know that the Kids First slate has the endorsement of the vehemently anti- LGBTQ privacy rights and anti- LGBTQ curriculum PAC, NJ Project.

    Does DeFusco know that the NJEA called Kids First’s endorsers NJProject “homophobic” “transphobic” and spreading “misinformation” about masking.

    Does DeFusco know that Donna Magen posted on NJ Project’s alt-right, cuckoo Facebook affiliate 41 times since 2021?

    So, in fact LTL’s campaign is correct. They can back up every statement made by their campaign.

    And either knowingly or stupidly, DeFusco betrays his own LGBTQ cause by endorsing chosen candidates by the vehemently anti-LGBTQ NJ Projects. DeFusco no doubt he struck some quid pro quo deal with Branco, for some favor when DeFusco runs for term #3.

    Now, Branco wants to “look here, not there” because he’s pumping DARK MONEY into his campaign by refusing to file the legally mandated R-1 form. Most likely, Branco’s pumping in cash from donors he wants to hide. NJ Project PAC? Hoboken Republicans? Young Republicans of Hudson County?

    Who knows. Meanwhile, DeFusco is the biggest sell-out in Hoboken’s current political world, not to mention the laziest Councilman routinely blowing off council and subcommittee meetings (but well-traveled while the pandemic was raging!).

    • Councilman Michael DeFusco magnanimously gave Hoboken Board of Education Trustee Irene Sobolov a pass for her homophobic slur email to other Trustees about him knowing full well she knew what she was saying and her words were chosen, political and deliberate. In the end her allies on the Board prevented her from facing any official sanction.

  3. Makes sense. Does the Councilman agree with Kids First endorsement from NJ Project PAC?

    The NJEA called NJ Project “homophobic” and “transphobic.” Maybe the councilman was too busy making deals with Kids First to do his homework.

  4. Makes sense that when the bhalla team is called out again for their vicious and unethical tactics they resort to smears. The town has had enough of this hate and evil. Vote kids first and stop the hate that bhalla and cronies brought to Hoboken. Fisher and Defusco are right it’s time to take a stand and vote kids first

  5. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. DeFusco was one of the worst purveyors of nasty politics until he slid under his rock and hid 1 1/2 years ago. He has shown himself to be a shameless political opportunist who stabbed Terry Castellano and then Dawn Zimmer in the back, and who has reportedly cut a deal with the ever transactional Mayor Bhalla to run unopposed for re-election in exchange for his vote supporting Bhalla’s $300 million public safety monstrosity.

    This is a classic example of “do as I say not as I do.” But the toxicity of the messenger doesn’t diminish the truth of his message. The process (or more accurately lack of one) was a throwback to sham processes of the bad old days. As is the total disregard of the taxpayer in order to feather the nests of those in power and their supporters. The divisive nasty mailers recall the nastiness of Paul Swibinski attacking first Carol Marsh and then Dawn Zimmer.

    Keep reform alive. Vote KF.

  6. If you are a parent or guardian of a school age child in Hoboken you should be appalled by the way that Norwood, Grana and De la Torre are running their campaign to get elected to the Hoboken School Board.
    Hoboken in the past has tried to say we are against all bullies but to now have three bullies on the ballot asking to be to put them in charge of our children’s education disheartening.
    November 8th will be a test to see if we as a City can live up to our pretty words.

  7. The constant take down attempt by Bhalla and his close friends and allies makes one wonder why they go after him 24/7 /365.
    Long before the many believed self- inflicted Bhalla flyer to slam DeFusco came out, Bhalla bloggers loved mocking him.
    All the painted rainbows in the world can’t mask over these attacks on the city’s only OUT LGBTQ public official.
    Just because Rachel and Phil’s pee wee political playhouse AKA Hoboken Dems says they are LGBTQ friendly, they don’t mean it. We all know the real feelings – TRUE supporters of LGBTQ rights dont appoint a Republican like proprty manager/ real estate agent James Sanford to a housing commission, TRUE supporters of LGBTQ rights dont separate the men from the women in social circle events, TRUE supporters of LGBTQ rights dont support a blogger or hire them for political materials for elections like LTL and Team Bhalla have.

  8. This back and forth negative neighbor’s fighting against each other has to stop this is nothing new but it’s gotten worse in the past elections because nobody is being held accountable for their actions If the first flyers was investigated properly without covering up the facts and dirty politics attached others wouldn’t feel comfortable doing the same thing with an attempt to get sympathy for votes. People need to grow up because your children are surrounded by all our children when they’re in school nonetheless when your child witness this type of behavior coming from adults they to will display the same bad behavior dirty politics don’t belong in Hoboken.

  9. NJ Project attacks LGBTQ and transgender students’ right to privacy, AND attacks LGBTQ and transgender inclusion in our school curriculum.

    Guess who asked for and received NJ Project’s endorsement?

    ANSWER: Kids First

  10. Ravi was clearly behind the fliers in 2017 which cost DeFusco the mayoral job (the only job he would have taken – unlike Ravinder who still is working as a law partner with John Allen):


    Don’t let them keep getting away with it by voting for the same team that calls independent voices who want to bring transparency “extremists” when a “Leadership that Listens” supporter used a homophobic slur in calling councilman DeFusco “butt buddies.”

    Wake up, parents. Do the needful and vote for Kids First!