Looking ahead to the 2015 elections in North Bergen and West New York


North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco and West New York Mayor Felix Roque will each defend their mayoral crowns in their respective municipal elections in May, so let’s take a look about what North Hudson has to look forward to (or be terrified of) in the first half of 2015.


Sacco, also the State Senator of the 33rd district, is one of the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s longest tenured and most powerful members, known for winning elections by a minimum of an 8-to-1 margin.

The opposition in North Bergen has been notoriously weak for years now, with Sacco’s ticket easily running away with the 2011 race – essentially not even breaking a sweat to maintain control of all five commissioner seats.

The North Bergen Concerned Citizens Group, led by wealthy business owner Larry Wainstein, has been around since 2012 and occasionally causes the current administration some headaches by harping on issues like alleged safety issues related to a local recycling plant.

Wainstein himself hasn’t been to a public meeting in North Bergen since the summer, but, as the above clip shows, has sent other members of his organization every so often.

Said to routinely knock on doors in North Bergen search of more anti-Saccoites, Wainstein just told The Jersey Journal’s Augie Torres he still doesn’t have any plans to run this time around.

It would be a shock if Wainstein actually sits this one out, especially after hosting a large Thanksgiving dinner at Shuetzen Park, but even if his name isn’t on the ballot, he will undoubtedly do a lot of groundwork for the ticket that is brave enough to oppose Sacco.

Former board of education and freeholder candidate Odemaris Ramirez has never been close to winning an election in North Bergen, but since her hate of the current administration is strong, don’t be shocked if she runs again here.

Other rumored candidates include newcomer James De Los Santos, who spearheaded the movement against Lincoln Recycling, and Katie Mocco – a lawyer and dangerous Olympic-level Judo black belt who happens to be the daughter of infamous old school Sacco rival Joe Mocco.

Katie Mocco quietly won her committee seat as a Republican in June and if she continues to try and ascend the local political ladder, it would certainly degenerate May’s election into a brutal, last-man (or woman) standing type of bloody war.

Katie Mocco posing with Larry Wainstein last year. Facebook photo.
Katie Mocco posing with Larry Wainstein last year. Facebook photo.

Still, defeating a top-tier talent like Sacco is going to be borderline impossible regardless how much mud is slung and how many dollars are spent, unless the whole administration implodes during the trial of several township department of public works employees later this month.

Of course, the smart money says that won’t happen.

On a final North Bergen note, in the event that either DPW Commissioner Frank Gargiulo (also the Superintendent at the Hudson County Schools of Technology) or Public Safety Commissioner Teresa Ferraro don’t seek re-election, Board of Education President Julio Marenco is a top candidate to fill the void.

Moving onto West New York: this election has a lot of moving parts that haven’t been figured out yet.

West New York political aficionados already now they can expect a long-awaited grudge match between Roque and Commissioner Count Wiley, where Wiley is expected to hit his adversary with the kitchen sink, the toilet and anything else in the house that can be removed with a sledgehammer.

The major wild card here is outgoing Freeholder Chairman Jose Munoz, who about two weeks ago sent a letter to Hudson County View insisting that he was still unsure if he was going to run in May or not.

Given that 2015 is already upon is, it seems safe to say that if Munoz doesn’t announce this week, he will begrudgingly hang out on sidelines for this big game.

However, both pro- and anti-Roque politicos insist that Munoz will throw his hat in the ring even if he only has a nickel to his name. Needless to say, neither side would be particularly thrilled in this situation.

The anti-Roque people, primarily the West New York United ticket led by Wiley, would rather not see the vote get split a third way, while Team Roque knows Munoz would swing early and often, looking for the knockout punch at every turn.

Jose Munoz

Back to Roque, the pain management specialist is going to see the first half of his campaign fall almost solely into the lap of town spokesman/public relations extraordinaire Pablo Fonseca, since town attorney Donald Scarinci is on vacation until March.

In case you’re wondering, Scarinci Hollenback attorney Sean Dias will fill in for Scarinci to take care of town business in his absence.

While Scarinci is an invaluable asset to any campaign, Fonseca has proven he can handle the Hudson County trenches by helping Caridad Rodriguez steal the freeholder seat away from Munoz in June, then aiding the Children First ticket in pulling off the clean sweep in November’s board of education race.

Fonseca, who was instrumental in getting Cory Booker elected the mayor of Newark, is not known for political attacks or self-promoting media interviews, instead opting to have his candidate(s) focus on their track records and the issues at hand: at least when it comes to West New York.

A seemingly impossible concept here in Hudson, but thus far, has proven to be pretty effective.

In Scarinci’s absence, Fonseca will likely also have a major role in deciding what Roque’s final slate looks like.

Some consider Cosmo Cirillo, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s Chief of Staff, a shoe-in, while others say the fact that he is ex-WNY Mayor Sal Vega’s protege is going to be tough to overlook.

Even harder to get past, for some, is the fact that it feels like yesterday that Cirillo – also a former West New York Board of Education president – would routinely put Roque in his crosshairs at public meetings (h/t Hudson County TV).

In fairness, Roque and Vega seem like the best of friends these days, case in point: the board of commissioners just appointed Vanessa Cirillo (Cosmo’s wife) and Daniel Ortega – Vega’s old chief of staff – to the West New York Rent Control Board at last month’s meeting.

Don’t believe me? Here’s Wiley dishing the dirt on the subject in a previously unpublished clip:

Whether or not the Rent Control Board actually serves a purpose is irrelevant from a political standpoint: it shows that Roque is willing to forgive and forget.

On top of that, Cosmo is young, politically savvy and intelligent, and sometimes, a candidate is lucky to have one of those three characteristics – let alone all three.

While there are other names in the mix, I’ll save those for a rainy day, but as of this writing, don’t expect Commissioners Ruben Vargas or Fior’D Aliza Frias to seek re-election.

Oh yea, did you hear Angelica Jimenez’s assembly seat (D-32) is up for grabs in June? Until next time …

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