The Hoboken 4th Ward isn’t easily won. Manhattan by day, Hoboken by night condo owners want dog runs. Project families want someone to acknowledge them even when there isn’t an election.
But this is Hoboken; there’s always an election. Just ask Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who withstood three 4th Ward knock-down drag-outs before running the gauntlet of another three elections to become mayor. She actually lost one of those elections, but took over after Mayor Peter Cammarano’s cup of coffee and arrest.
But after six elections in three years, the mayor now has five votes on the City Council, enough to control most wranglings.
The 4th Ward special election on November 2 will determine who has the vote for a few months until ward elections next May. Zimmer needs the vote to continue to push her agenda through the winter.
She vacated the 4th Ward seat to become mayor and appointed Michael Lenz, the political tactician who’s on the payroll of Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. That means he’ll get backing from above. But probably more importantly, Lenz has been winning over some detractors with his long-winded, but fair analyses at the dais as acting councilman.
Lenz has his own perception problems.
He managed the campaign that got Mayor David Roberts elected in 2001. Roberts ended up being less of a reformer than voters were promised, but Lenz was promptly hired as the city CFO. He broke from Roberts over an unbalanced city budget, was fired, and won a lawsuit settlement.
Then the 4th Ward incumbent shifted his allegiance to a Hudson County Democratic Organization-backed line for assembly that challenged State Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack (D-Union City). Though the ticket lost, Lenz still ended up with a nice county salary. While Lenz is qualified for both positions, the timing of the jobs raised a few eyebrows.
And while Lenz has been blessed from above, Tim Occhipinti, 32, with only three years in town, has his own formidable base: post-Cammarano votes.
The disgraced mayor awaits sentencing on Aug. 3 for corruption charges, but his former supporters conquered the reformers, only to see him singlehandedly hand the town back to the newcomers.
Zimmer is laying off police, a group that Cammarano promised to protect. She’s taking innovative approaches to parking that residents are having a hard time believing are working.
So they are gathering around Occhipinti, the all-important fifth vote on the council.