The cover of today’s Jersey Journal has a picture of Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) next to the words “I’ll win.”
Chiappone, indicted along with his wife in August by the State Attorney General’s Office for allegedly cashing staffers’ checks for his personal and campaign bank accounts and subsequently stripped of his legislative committee assignments, expects to be re-elected on Tuesday. And the conventional wisdom is that he’s probably right. He’s running in the Democratic column in a district where his party outnumbers Republicans eight-to-one.
That’s part of the reason leaders of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) – which saw several of its own members arrested in an unrelated federal corruption sting in July – did not make much of a fuss about forcing Chiappone to resign (with the notable exception of Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, already a fierce rival of Chiappone’s). Although Chiappone is not cozy with most of Hudson County’s top Democrats, HCDO Chairman Jerramiah Healy, the mayor of Jersey City, might have found it awkward if he called on Smith to resign but refused to do the same for corruption-charged Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega.
But the HCDO has kept its distance from Chiappone. His running mate, police detective Charles Mainor, attends political events with the top HCDO brass, but Chiappone has not been not invited to join them.
So how does Mainor feel about having a running mate who has been indicted?
“As a police officer, I truly believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and I extend that much courtesy to Mr. Chiappone,” he said.
Mainor said he didn’t “put much thought” into the idea that Chiappone could be upset by a Republican, though he said he did not take anything for granted.
Chiappone could not be reached for comment.
Republicans are running Irene Kim Asbury and Marie Day. Asbury has been campaigning actively, although she and Day have not raised the $7,200 threshold that requires they report their donations the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
But even though both of the district’s incumbent Assemblymen have been indicted — (Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith (D-Jersey City), who is not running for reelection, was ensnared in the July corruption sweep for allegedly taking bribes) – Asbury is not basing her campaign on an anti-corruption theme.
“Unfortunately in Hudson County corruption seem to be an aspect of all parts of life. It’s not the thing I’m running on,” she said.
Instead, Asbury says Chiappone – despite two previous non-consecutive terms in the assembly and 11 years on the Bayonne council – has not adequately represented the Jersey City portion of the district. And the district, she notes, has an unemployment rate of greater than 11%.
“He may feel like he’s got 11 years of service, but if you come down to other parts of Jersey City nobody can name him when you go outside of Bayonne,” said Asbury, referring to Chiappone’s quote in the journal that he should be judged by his service, but by an allegation. “He hasn’t been to ward E. people in Ward A don’t know who he is. I find that very surprising.”