Hudson Clerk candidates keep it civil

by MATT FRIEDMAN
PoliticsNJ.com

While their tickets wage war, Hudson County Clerk candidates Mary Jane Desmond and Barbara Netchert are unfailingly polite to each other.

“I ran into (Netchert). I went right up to her when she was coming up the steps and said ‘this may be awkward over the next couple months but I prefer that it not be,” said Acting County Clerk Mary Jane Desmond, a former Bayonne City Councilwoman and one time Republican . “I sat at her table for 20 minutes talking to her. This is not personal.”

Even in a county notorious for its vitriolic political campaigns, the two main contenders for County Clerk conduct themselves with reserve, despite being enmeshed in a close race and backed by organizations who routinely hurl charges of bribery and various indiscretions at each other.

Desmond, who’s backed by Brian Stack’s Democrats for Hudson County, has been acting Clerk since January, when she was elevated form Deputy Clerk after Javier Inclan’s departure. Netchert is currently Executive Director of the Jersey City Department of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce.

Hoboken City Clerk James Farina is also in the running, though he could not be reached for comment.

“When you go into these elections, with all the craziness that’s whirling around in the legislative office, unfortunately the constitutional offices are right in the middle of the line,” said Netchert.

Neither candidate would say a negative word about the other, preferring to let their own records and ideas speak for themselves. Desmond said that, in the short time she’s been Acting Clerk, she’s most proud of improving customer service. “I’m an organizer – I take chaos and make something of it,” said Desmond. “That makes them much easier to be more congenial and efficient in any encounters they have with constituents.”

Netchert, who lives in Jersey City, said that her time as Executive Director of a large city agency has prepared her well for the job. Her name was floated months ago as a possible replacement to Inclan, but Governor Jon Corzine never named a successor. County Executive Thomas DeGise, who she admires, encouraged her to run for the position.

As Clerk, she said she would try to open the bring more languages to the office, offering services to speakers of languages like Egyptian and Hindi, which have many speakers in Hudson County. She also wants to make birth certificates more accessible to residents of Jersey City and Secaucus, who currently have to get them from Trenton.

County executive campaigns are generally not known to get nasty. Both candidates said that the office was apolitical, and they would treat it that way. Desmond added that she recused herself from overseeing this year’s election.

Both lamented the brutal campaigns going on around them, but professed loyalty to their political allies — Netchert to County Executive Tom DeGise, who she referred to as “genuine,” and “not a political boss. Far from it.” Desmond affectionately referred to Lou Manzo as “a bulldog,” and glowingly mentioned Brian Stack’s work ethic.

“I’m a 24/7 kind of person myself, but he does circles around me,” said Desmond.

Hudson Clerk candidates keep it civil