2020 was a year like no other and it goes without saying that it’s one that the overwhelming majority of people would like to forget. With that in mind, it’s probably about time to predict what will happen in the wild world of Hudson County politics in 2021.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Under more normal circumstances, this space would be reserved for our annual feuds of the year, taking a look at the best political throw downs of the last 12 months.
Somehow, one of the people who occupied last year’s top spot, former Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas – who was also briefly acting executive director for the Jersey City Employment and Training Program – managed to get charged and/or indicted three times in less than a full calendar year.
Any way, due to the circumstances surrounding the ongoing pandemic, the list seemed far less applicable in 2020, but it bears mentioning that the best race to watch was U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) vs. Hector Oseguera.
Sires won by about a 3.5-to-1 or so margin, but the future of that seat, along with the Democratic party line, are drawing more attention than they ever have before.
While the end result was not shocking, Oseguera led the progressive movement across the river with authority and appears undaunted by the loss as he continues to advocate for causes such as eliminating the county’s ICE contract.
Before getting into the weeds, let’s also take a moment to recognize the continuing Herculean efforts of our frontline responders, in particular all 12 municipal health departments (as well the Hudson Regional Health Commission), the Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital, the Jersey City Medical Center, the Hoboken University Medical Center, and the Palisades Medical Center.
Obviously, our health care workers, along with police, fire, and EMS, have been pushed to their limits time and time again over these past 9 months and the finish line is finally in sight.
Now, onto the nitty gritty stuff, sort of, starting off with an easy one.
Wayne Zitt will be re-elected Guttenberg mayor
Easy to forget about Guttenberg, but they have municipal races next year, too. Of course, if you’re looking for drama, better to head south, as Mayor Zitt will cruise to re-election with whoever accompanies him on his slate.
Don’t be surprised if he runs unopposed.
At least one Hoboken council-at-large incumbent won’t seek re-election
Between Jim Doyle, Emily Jabbour, and Vanessa Falco, at least one council member-at-large will opt to let their term run out in 2021.
Doyle, appointed to the council in 2012 before being elected in 2013, then re-elected in 2017, is most likely to call it a career. Jabbour and Falco will both more than likely run again, but nothing it set in stone until all the mayoral candidates have announced.
At least four people will run for Hoboken mayor
We know Ravi Bhalla is going to seek a second term and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos has signaled he may be the first official challenger.
Even if both 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco or 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher decides not to run, which seems improbable at the moment, at least four candidates on the ballot seems like a pretty safe bet.
3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo and Council President Jen Giattino could always throw their hats in the ring, and if not, it’s all but guaranteed that less mainstream candidates – ala Ron Bautista and Karen Nason in 2017 – will still end up running.
The next Hoboken mayor will be decided in the runoff
A bit of a shot in the dark here, but with four people or more on the ballot, it would stand to reason that the big election in Hoboken will be in December rather than November.
Bhalla seems all but guaranteed to make it there right now, but who will be standing across from him is really anybody’s guess with so much of the terrain still very much uncertain.
Steven Fulop will be re-elected mayor of Jersey City
While Rob Menendez, Jr. could theoretically announce next week, Fulop has no declared challengers at the moment and he has deep campaign coffers – sitting at around $2 million between his account and the Team Fulop account for his council running mates.
With seven of the current council members aligned with the incumbent, the combination of the two sounds like far too much to overcome in 10 months, even despite having significant issues with the progressive members of the local Democratic party.
Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro is most likely to run for mayor
Maybe I’ll end up eating crow, but I am not seeing much of an upside of Menendez, Jr. running here. All the while, Lavarro has positioned himself as the most regular Fulop critic on the council. At worst he would make it entertaining for us gadfly types.
Ward E Councilman James Solomon will be re-elected
Yes, council races are far less certain than mayoral contests, and like Fulop, Solomon doesn’t have an opponent yet. Nevertheless, he still has one of the best local operations to get his message out and reach voters.
Certainly, Fulop won’t make it easy (perhaps you’ve heard they haven’t been getting along so great) but, like the mayor, Solomon also has the luxury of a head start and a pretty reliable base.
At least one state senator will face a primary challenge
Not to say it will be a fire fight, or competitive in any sense, but based on what we’ve seen over the past 12 months, I’m pretty comfortable in saying that Sandra Cunningham, Brian Stack, and/or Nick Sacco will have a Democrat challenge them in 2021.
I wouldn’t bet on any upsets any time soon, but it’s starting to feel like uncontested primaries won’t be as regular as they used to be if 2020 is any indication.
Happy holidays and a Happy New Year to you and yours!