Sires and Oseguera trade punches over former affiliations with the Republican party

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With two weeks to go before the primary election, the 8th congressional district race is heating up, with the campaign for U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8), a former Republican congressional candidate, taking aim at progressive challenger Hector Oseguera for being a registered Republican in 2006.

By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View

Voter records show that Oseguera, 32, was registered as a Republican from June 7th, 2006, when he was 18 years old, through September 1st, 2009.

Oseguera denied he was ever affiliated with the Republican party, attributing the voter registration history to a clerical error, calling it a “desperate attempt from a shadowy, corrupt political figure to undermine the true progressive movement in New Jersey.”

Conversely, the Sires team said this was proof that Oseguera’s progressive views were little more than window dressing for the campaign.

“Hector Oseguera’s denial of his past life as a registered Republican is about as credible as Donald Trump saying his taxes are still under audit,” said JP Escobar, a spokesman for the Sires campaign.

According to documents from the Hudson County Clerk’s Office, Oseguera was first registered as a Democrat in April 2006 until an apparent change in affiliation to the Republican party of that year. His affiliation changed back to the Democratic party in 2009.

Regardless, he didn’t vote in Hudson County until 2011, per the HCCO documents. His campaign also provided voter registration documents from Massachusetts, when he went to law school, showing he registered as a Democrat in 2008.

Oseguera, in response, attacked Sires for running for congress in 1986 as a Republican “when he was 35 years old, three years older than Mr. Oseguera is today.”

“That goes beyond a simple registration, that is active support,” his campaign said. “He collected signatures, and campaigned for months to give Ronald Reagan one more vote in Congress.”

Election records show Sires voted as a Republican in eight primary elections from 1986 to 1993.

Sires, 69, is facing his first spirited Democratic challenger since he was elected to the House in 2006, prompting him to go on offense for the first time in ages after ignoring the bulk of Oseguera’s criticisms hurled at him on social media.

He has also brought on Vision Media Marketing for the home stretch of the race, a prominent political public relations and consulting firm in Hudson County.

Oseguera is running as a Democrat but he is more aligned with the progressive wing of the party akin to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Born in Hoboken, he was raised in West New York and later went on to attend school at New England School of Law.

He now lives in Union City and works as an Anti-Money Laundering Specialist, “preventing fraudsters, criminals, and terrorists from moving illicit funds through our financial system,” per his campaign website.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle is fellow Democratic candidate Will Sheehan, a former SEAL Team Intelligence Officer who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom who has not defined himself as a liberal or progressive candidate.

“I’m running for Congress for the same reason I joined the Navy – to serve our country and the incredible individuals that comprise it. Just like you, I love this country, and I believe we can do better,” Sheehan said in an email blast.

“It’s time for a new generation of leaders in Washington – leaders who are tireless fighters, who are dedicated public servants, who possess strong moral compasses, and who run towards challenges, instead of away from them.”

The 8th Congressional District covers much of Hudson County, (except for the western portions of Jersey City and Bayonne) as well as parts of Newark and Elizabeth. The primary election is July 7.

Unseating Sires, who has had a long political career in Hudson County and has the full backing of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, would be no easy task.

Born in Cuba in 1951, Sires and his family fled Fidel Castro’s communist government and settled in West New York in 1962.

His first foray into public office was in 1983, when he lost to longtime West New York Mayor Anthony DeFino in 1983.

Sires then ran as a Republican for New Jersey’s 14th U.S. Congressional District seat held by Democrat Frank J. Guarini, Jr. in 1986, where he also came up short.

He was later hired by New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean (R) “to improve the communication between his administration and the Hispanic community.”

When DeFino retired in 1995, Sires competed for the West New York mayoralty and won as a registered independent.

He served three terms in Town Hall and also won a seat in the state Assembly in 1999, while serving as mayor, and was the assembly speaker from 2002 until 2006.

He won a special election in 2006 for the 8th congressional seat after the former office holder, Bob Menendez, was tapped for one of New Jersey’s two U.S. Senate seats.

“Congressman Sires was fighting against the Bush administration to end the war in Iraq, pushing back against Republican efforts to privatize social security and Medicare, campaigning for President Obama and then standing with him to move the Affordable Care Act forward, all while continuing to provide the constituent services and support that residents of Hudson County and the rest of his district rely on,” Escobar said, noting that this was all during the time when Oseguera was registered with the GOP.

“That long record of public service and standing up for our values is exactly why Congressman Sires has the strong support of the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters in the 8th District.”

He’s voted along Democratic party lines during his time in office, and has his own history of progressive voting.

Still, the Oseguera campaign has used an aggressive social media strategy to show his lack of support for progressive policy’s such as, for example, the Green New Deal and Medicare for All — issues that Sires has not endorsed.

Specifically, Oseguera attacked Sires for posing for a photo last year with Elliot Abrams, a former official in the Reagan administration “of Iran-Contra fame” who last year was named a special envoy for Venezuela.

“Albio was originally a Republican and this kind of behavior only confirms that he is still a Republican … behavior that includes voting in favor of every single military budget going back to 2007,” his campaign said.

“He voted in favor of funding $9.6 trillion dollars for Trump and Bush’s wars while people here in the 8th district were being displaced due to astronomical rents and healthcare costs. Albio, much like his Republican colleagues, can always find it in his heart to vote for war, but never for his constituents.”

Oseguera has been rallying across the county as an active participant in George Floyd protests, with he and Sires both recently marching through North Hudson for the cause.

The challenger’s hopes that his social media heavy approach will translate into a progressive turnout against the Hudson County Democratic Organization.

“For the entire primary election cycle, Sires has ignored his duty to the people of NJ08 to publicly make his case for why he should be re-elected. In March, he denied the public the chance to be heard in a public candidate forum hosted by NJ08 for Progress, just as he has denied them the right to be heard by failing to hold a single town hall for his entire tenure in Congress,” he said.

“So why was his first public campaign statement an attempt to deceive our local press by having his very expensive PR firm leak a fake story? Because Albio Sires and the Hudson County Democratic Organization are corrupt to their core.”

Furthermore, adding uncertainty to the race is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order in May to make the primary elections mostly be vote-by-mail affairs – though select poll locations will still be available.

 

Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_