Sources say key Democratic Party power brokers have agreed that Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith is the least offensive option to succeed Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy as chairman of the embattled Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
Smith hasn’t said publicly that he wants the job.
“I’m focused on Bayonne – the budget, and on winning the council runoff races,” Smith told PolitickerNJ.com on Thursday afternoon, hours away from a meeting of inner sanctum party members, including Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Hudson County Exeutive Tom DeGise, and North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco.
But sources, including Healy, say Smith will be the man come county reorganization on June 15th.
On one level, if this sticks, it’s a blow to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-Hoboken), who wanted Union City Mayor/state Sen. Brian P. Stack to serve as the party chairman.
Stack’s annihilation of his May 11th opposition in the commissioners’ race again proved his organizational prowess, and would give Menendez – up for re-election in 2012 – some home base comfort.
But DeGise’s re-election next year and the establishment’s fear of another county war (Stack played the unreconstructed rebel three years ago against the county) make Smith the consensus candidate among most mayors, including the big ones: Sacco and Healy and – grudgingly – Stack.
The thought of Stack as chairman terrified DeGise.
The idea of DeGise as chairman annoyed Stack.
That upped the probability of Smith to serve as chairman.
An affable former hero cop with deep family roots in Bayonne, the mayor who succeeded Joe Doria in a special 2008 election then crushed Assemblyman Tony Chiappone last month lacks longtime political acumen but has considerable social skills and as a lifelong beat cop remains closer to the street then most mayors.
After three years on the job, the current chair is happy to leave.
“The main function of the county chairman is, of course, fundraising, and I’m not all that pepped for that,” said Healy, who last year won re-election to a second term as mayor then weathered nearly a year’s worth of public agony as the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged substantial portions of his campaign personnel with fraud and corruption.
“I’m very comfortable with Mark,” Healy said. “I know the few people I’ve spoken to are very pleased about this. But remember, this isn’t a done deal as of right now.”
Sources note that the county organization needs major strengthening, which is the reason Menendez pressed for Stack. The U.S. Senator wanted Stack’s Union City template imposed on the whole county.
But the HCDO as it is feared the seismic shakeup that Stack’s presence would inevitably mean for the organization’s infrastructure. Heads would roll. Consulting contracts would get torn up. And DeGise would suddenly occupy unstable ground months away from a Democratic Primary.
Smith uses the same consultants as DeGise and Healy, and so portions of that infrastructure with him in charge would presumably remain intact.
Stack, moreover, while tempted, ultimately didn’t want the job.