Clinton nixes rally with Sires rival in Jersey City

Did Hillary Clinton cancel a public event in Hudson County today because she doesn’t want to take sides in a fledgling Democratic congressional primary next year?

Clinton was scheduled to hold a rally in the shadows of the towers that make up the Newport development in Jersey City, but citing scheduling conflicts, the Clinton campaign called off the public event. She will still attend a $1,000-a-head fundraiser this afternoon sponsored by Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop, who might challenge Rep. Albio Sires in the June 2008 Democratic primary.

“It would have been a great thing for Jersey City, with thousands of people attending,” said Fulop, who is co-hosting the event with developer Jamie LeFrak, whose family built Newport. The Clinton campaign expects to raise nearly $150,000 at the fundraiser.

Sires and Gov. Jon Corzine are expected to attend the Clinton fundraiser.

One Democratic source, who asked that his name be withheld, suggested that the buzz around Fulop’s possible challenge to Sires caused the Clinton campaign to rethink the public event for fear of becoming entangled in the muck of Hudson County politics. The source said that Clinton’s campaign was worried about whether Hillary would be perceived as endorsing one candidate over another, and thought it was better to play it safe and not turn the fundraiser into a spectacle.

“They don’t want to stir the pot any more than they have,” said the Democrat. “A public event with 2,000 people is very different from a private event.”

While Sires will attend the fundraiser as well, the event is widely viewed as a Fulop production. According to the Jersey Journal’s “Political Insider” column, Sires was not aware of the event just two weeks ago. Still, some may question why Clinton would not want to hold a public rally in a city whose Mayor, Jerramiah Healy, has endorsed her rival, Barack Obama.

A campaign spokeswoman for Sires said she had heard nothing of why the event was cancelled.

“We found out a day or two ago. All I can tell you is that the congressman is happy to welcome Hillary Clinton to the thirteenth district,” said Julie Roginsky, a spokeswoman for Sires.

John F.X. Graham, the chief Clinton fundraiser in New Jersey, said that he was unaware of the specific reason why Clinton’s campaign cancelled the event, but said he thought she did have some commitments across the river in New York. Still, he said, he could understand why Clinton would want to avoid alienating any local politicians.

“The campaign will be above all local politics. We’re not involved with any of that,” said Graham. “Hillary would never allow herself to be used for local politics.”

Clinton spokesman Blake Zeff stuck to the original explanation of time constraints, though did not offer any specifics as to what, exactly, those constraints were.

Clinton nixes rally with Sires rival in Jersey City