WEST NEW YORK – Another fistfight broke out in the parking lot across from the middle school and one of the assailants suddenly looked to be brandishing a metal object before two equipment-heavy cops scampered across the street and intervened.
Yet despite the backroom mutterings about the oddball DaVinci/Rembrandt political pairing of seasoned operatives Paul Swibinski and Tommy Bertoli, the rivals appeared cordial and complementary in Team Vega headquarters as they work for the common end of re-electing the mayor and his commissioner allies.
Once a challenger to North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco, Bertoli repackaged himself as renegade Jersey City Councilman Steve Fulop’s street operative, a GOTV animal who’s often mentioned as the perfect example of the alleyway presence required by every yuppie eager to get involved in Hudson County politics.
“Tommy and I have known each other going back to high school,” said Vega. “I was long distance, he was middle distance, but there’s a relationship there.”
Then there’s Swibinski, the longtime voice and message-maker of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) and special ally of Sacco’s, the ultimate establishment fixture whose audacious “lower taxes” tag on an incumbent like Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega, who famously jacked taxes in 2009, sets opponents’ teeth on edge.
The unlikely intertwined team are the centerpieces to the Vega operation, which right now appears confident. Commissioner Gerry Lange reported that as of noon, 1,800 people had voted – not the monster numbers that would reflect a revolution capable of upsetting the public sector strength of City Hall.