Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop held the biggest fundraiser of his political career tonight, packing 350 donors at $250 a head into Puccini’s Restaurant.
Fulop said that he expects to net a little over $70,000 from the event, adding to the $245,000 he has in his election fund for a 2013 mayoral candidacy.
“Five years ago we couldn’t fill a phone booth,” said political consultant Tom Bertolli, Fulop’s political point man.
Most candidates don’t open their fundraisers to the press, but Fulop, a reform advocate who is the only one of Jersey City’s nine council members not allied with Mayor Jerramiah Healy, invited reporters. There was a clear message: with Healy making frequent cameos on FBI informant Solomon Dwek’s version of “Candid Camera,” there could be a mayoral race earlier than anticipated, and the smart money was going to Fulop.
“You can see the shift,” said Bertolli.
Among the crowd was former Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny (D-Hoboken), the predecessor to Healy as Hudson County Democratic chairman.
“I’m here as a private individual,” said Kenny. “I met him years ago when I was a senator. He impressed me. You develop an eye for political talent when you’ve been in the profession of politics for a long time, and he obviously has it… He seems like a nice guy, so here I am.”
Fulop seemed to relish the lawsuit and other legal threats being leveled at him by former Mayor Gerry McCann, whose rehiring as an Incinerator Authority inspector drew an angry press release from the councilman. Fulop called the hiring was a quid pro quo to gain the endorsement of police detective Sean Connors, a family friend of McCann’s.
Yesterday, McCann threatened to sue Fulop for defamation. Fulop, apparently unperturbed, tweeted the news to his supporters. Today, McCann changed course: he would have Fulop in handcuffs, charged with extortion under official right.
Fulop’s offense: threatening to withhold his vote from funding the Jersey City Incinerator Authority until they dump the newly re-hired McCann.
“What he’s saying is if you don’t fire him, I’m going to vote against your budget. I’m going to file a criminal complaint. I’m going to have him arrested,” said McCann, who equated Fulop’s threat with the alleged bribe taking of the dozens of public officials who were arrested in the massive July federal corruption sweep.
“It’s the same crime that those guys got indicted for,” he said. “Tell him that he will be arrested within the next seven days. Gerry McCann guarantees and promises it…. You can’t make your vote contingent on anything. I can’t say if you don’t hire my brother, I’m not voting for your budget. It’s the same thing. It’s exactly the same thing. It’s a criminal act.”
McCann said he talked to several lawyers, all of whom told him Fulop’s action was illegal, and that his own lawyer was drawing up a complaint. He declined to identify his lawyer.
Fulop, for his part, was not packing for jail.
“I’m excited for Gerry McCann’s interpretation of the law, and I invite not only Gerry McCann to sue me, but to invite the United States Attorney in to investigate the quid pro quo deal. So there you go,” he said.