by MAX PIZARRO
Assemblyman Louis Manzo apparently came to fight in the district 31 Senate race, where the latest casualty to emerge from the political House of Atreus called Hudson County is Sean Cotter of Bayonne.
Last month, Cotter was grabbing cute ledes in the Star-Ledger referring to his tennis game, and as late as last week was advancing himself as a “New Frontier Democrat” from Bayonne.
This week he’s out of the race, not returning phone calls, and being depicted by Manzo as little more than a prop in the Machiavellian stagecraft of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
Manzo says Cotter went to him “on or around March 6” and told him Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy had persuaded Cotter to enter the race for state Senate in district 31 to take votes away from Manzo. According to the Assemblyman, Cotter told him Healy had offered him jobs and charitable gifts in exchange for running.
Such play-making is not uncommon in Hudson County politics, but the trick is not to get caught, says a political insider.
Manzo says he still doesn’t know why Cotter approached him with the information.
“I thought he was trying to extort me,” the Assemblyman said. “I could not sit there and listen to that and not do something.”
Manzo said Cotter had "caught wind" that the Assemblyman was going to reveal the information about Cotter at a hearing on Friday involving a separate matter — Manzo’s challenge of the primary petition filing of his chief rival in the race, Sandra Cunningham.
Manzo filed his complaint last Friday in the courtroom of Judge Maurice J. Gallipoli, who subsequently moved the case to the state Office of Administrative Law, where it has not yet been assigned, according to state spokesman David Wald.
Cotter would not return phone calls Monday. Neither would Healy.
The only public comment available from Cotter was a photo copy of his faxed message last Friday to Maria Del Valle-Koch, acting director of the state Division of Elections.
“I Sean Cotter want to withdrawel (sic.) my name from the Democratic Primary in the 31st district as a Senate candidate. If there is a problem please contact me.”
Whatever happens in this particular case, efforts by elected officials to nullify political opponents with job offers are not restricted to Hudson County in this state.
In December of last year, a grand jury indicted Mayor John “Mack” Lake of Carneys Point on charges that he tried to bribe his opponent to drop out of the race for township committee.
Lake was indicted on one count of second-degree official misconduct and two counts of second-degree bribery. Attorney General Stuart Rabner alleges that he approached his opponent on at least two occasions "with offers to secure him a paid municipal job if he would drop out of the race for township committee."
Lake was defeated in the Nov. 7 election.