There is considerable speculation tonight about the impact of Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos’ decision on Jersey City Councilman Steven Fulop, a possible statewide contender for governor.
Fulop was once one third of a rising star political triumvirate that included Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley and Ramos.
Holley won his own contest in Roselle two years ago, followed by Fulop’s victory in Jersey City last year. But now apparently Ramos will not be the next mayor of Newark, according to sources, who told Mark Bonamo that the North Ward Councilman will drop out of the mayor’s race to endorse former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries.
Partly at work in Ramos’ decision is the political calculation of powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, who does not want to see the empowerment in Newark of South Ward Councilman and resident anti-establishment presence Ras Baraka.
Last week, Bonamo reported on DiVincenzo’s arch rival, state Sen. Dick Codey (D-27), going public with his endorsement of Baraka and intensifying the pressure on DiVincenzo to pick a candidate with a path to victory in the majority African-American city.
A Baraka-Jeffries mano-a-mano may give DiVincenzo a better chance to stand with a winner on election Night, sources argue, but Ramos’ move complicates matters for Fulop.
Fulop may or may not run for governor when Chris Christie departs, and if he runs he will probably have to go through Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
Sweeney and DiVincenzo have a good political relationship, and Sweeney hopes the strong ties translate into the county executive using his influence in the crucial northern county to get Sweeney the coveted Essex line in a gubernatorial fistfight.
The Hudson County-based Fulop also wants the line if he runs, and envisions coalescing northern counties to stave off the South.
The trouble is Fulop’s chief political operative, Tom Bertoli, is aligned with Baraka and already employing a model not unlike the one that Fulop and Bertoli used to dethrone the party establishment in Jersey City last year.
Insiders wonder whether Fulop will talk Bertoli down from Team Baraka and safely join those ranks of establishment players who sources say will line up behind Jeffries; or whether Fulop – unconvinced that he can woo DiVincenzo away from Sweeney – will see his best play as an anti-establishment alignment with Baraka and look for an exclusive Newark toehold.
It’s a complex set of political problems for Fulop, particularly if U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10) chooses to endorse a candidate for mayor.
Payne’s uncle, former Assemblyman Bill Payne (D-29), is already in the Jeffries camp.
But Payne backed Fulop early in last year’s mayor’s contest.
The Jersey City mayor doesn’t necessarily want to trade an alliance he has with Payne for Baraka, much less lose DiVincenzo utterly.
But the other wrinkle for Fulop is the potential star power of Jeffires, widely viewed as a future statewide contender if he can get through Newark, and a possible rising star rival.
Does Fulop want to empower a competitor, or link up with the perceived Newark lifer Baraka?