It Happened in Hillside: Part III

HILLSIDE – On a street tucked away behind the frenzy around Gov Chris Christie, stood a campaign headquarters plastered over with “Angela Garretson for Mayor” signs.

Inside stood Angela Garretson, the local councilwoman running for mayor against incumbent Mayor Joe Menza, who today received the endorsement of the Republican governor in this heavily Democratic burgh.

“It’s always a pleasure to have the governor visit our community, but state and federal officials need to be in touch with local issues,” said the councilwoman amid a battery of allies on the phones a day before Election Day.

PolitickerNJ.com reporter Mark Bonamo already wrote about the jam-up of big names in this Route 22 send-up to the grittiest slices of New Jersey history and literature, all bundled under a wilderness of highways and sandwiched at the edges of Newark.

Christie’s with Menza.

U.S. Rep. Donald Payne’s (D-10) with Garretson.

The congressman cut a robocall yesterday, which goes out today for the councilwoman, a Democrat hampered somewhat by a second Dem, Councilman Jorge Batista, who’se backed by longtime power broker Charlotte DeFilippo, the former powerful chair of the Union County Democratic Party.

Christie laid on a local touch in his appearance today with the mayor. The governor’s father went to Hillside HS.

“Congressman Payne attended school in Hillside,” Garretson shot back.

She and Payne were on a teleconference call yesterday building up the mayoral candidate’s troops in advance of Tuesday.

A Cory Booker for Mayor brat in 2002, Hillside native Garretson shook off the operative trappings in her own bid for a council seat the same year Menza became mayor.

In a brutal campaign season with one day to go, she said she understands why Menza wants to campaign with the governor who stood up to Hurricane Sandy, but says Menza stumbled in his own storm-time stewardship.

“The fact is that during the storm the chief was in charge,” Garrestson said.

Coming off his rally with Christie, Menza laughed off the charge.

“It’s foolishness,” he said. “I was in Hillside every single day in a public works truck – without sleep. Angela Garretson was nowhere to be found, other than when she interfered and almost got in a fist fight with our police chief.”

Garretson says it’s Menza’s chest thumping fight with the local Democratic machine that has transformed the halls of government into shrill, unproductive ego trips on both sides.

She’s trying to come up the middle.

“I think there’s a lack of trust,” the councilwoman said, referring to the chill between police and fire and the Menza administration. “We can’t just stabilize taxes. We have to do that while making sure we gt those resources necessary for our town.”

Garretson said Menza’s relationship with Christie produced zero real results on the ground here in her town.

“What about the $630,000 in road assistance that we got, or the $198,000 energy grant for emergency gas generators?” the mayor demanded.  “What, do they think matching county grants are the only things that come to Hillside?”

A day out, both sides drove hard, and Batista was out there too – in Hillside.

It Happened in Hillside: Part III