BAYONNE – Now that retired municipal judge Pat Conaghan has lunged out of the gate as the first candidate to officially run for mayor in November’s special election, he means to keep an aggressive public schedule.
Both on the trail, and if elected.
"It’s a full-time job," said the 70-year old, lifelong Bayonne resident, referring to the office of mayor. "That was the problem with Mayor Joe Doria. He was in Trenton two days a week, and the inmates were running the asylum."
In a blatantly anti-Doria press conference last week, Conaghan stood between Bayonne’s two dissenting councilmen, Gary La Pelusa and Anthony Chiappone, as he kicked off his campaign to fill an unexpired term.
Appointed in October of last year to fill in for Doria, who was appointed director of the state Department of Community affairs by Gov. Jon Corzine, Terrance Malloy serves as the town’s acting mayor.
But Doria still looms over Bayonne, an unfortunate fact, in Conaghan’s view.
"He abandoned ship just before we hit the iceberg," agreed Councilman (and Assemblyman) Anthony Chiappone.
Conaghan believes the former mayor over a period of nine years fumbled away an opportunity to properly develop the old Naval base in Bayonne, and mistakenly focused on mixed use, including residential and commercial, as opposed to straight-ahead industrial.
"It’s a long, long story," said the candidate, "but in 1995 as a lawyer I was approached by maritime industry giants like Maersk. They were interested in a 40-year lease with Bayonne to lease that land for $50 million a year."
Conaghan contends that Doria didn’t follow up on those offers, instead opting for residential development that added up against the new public services its presence demands, doesn’t offer the long-term dollars Bayonne needs.
"What has happened down there is a disgrace, and it’s all at the feet of Joe Doria," the candidate said.
Regarding the November election, Conaghan notes that "it’s a long way to Tipperary," but says he’s ready for whatever candidate the Doria forces throw into the fray. The word is police director Mark Smith, a Doria ally, is probing a run, but Smith was unavailable for comment.