PATERSON – The winners will say it was a cycle in which people-power prevailed over bosses.
But there were bosses who showed up in the winners’ circles, radiating democracy while intent on making those populist victors deliver.
Time will tell if these wins, which severely dented the command structure of the New Jersey Democratic Party and its veteran pooh-bahs, will actually benefit the people.
Remember, Jeff Jones arrived in Paterson four years ago unaffiliated with any overlords and, in the enduring words of Bob Dylan, “revolution in the air.”
You’ll find Jones on the list below, and not on the winners’ side of the ledger, and somewhere in the vicinity of The Ledger, for that matter.
As to peoples’ expectations, there are already a lot of hurt feelings and we just a moment ago posted this.
It gets a little ridiculous when someone calls to insist that the fly that flew into a snow cone consumed on the street by a Shavar Jeffries staffer make the Winners’ list on the strength of weakening the constitution of the opposition.
Certainly we don’t see what follows as the definitive story of last night’s elections. We’ll spend the rest of the week analyzing what happened, and the after-shock will, of course, be felt and written about for months and years to come.
This special Wednesday afternoon installment of Winners and Losers represents just the beginning.
But we also have June 3rd elections upcoming, and political engagements beckoning everywhere from CD3 to CD12, to the streets of Plainfield and West New York, to Linden, to Elizabeth and South Jersey.
Then there’s June 10th and critical runoffs in Newark, Bayonne and Trenton.
So we want to get this out now as a framework for further reflection. Congratulations to all the winners, and to the losers – even though it’s Jersey, granted; this is still America, baby.
Revel in it.
Once derided as a bullhorn-hogging Abbie Hoffman understudy with Stokely Carmichael posters plastered over his bedroom walls, the South Ward councilman ran a textbook campaign, complete with real-time, politically savvy 24/7 communications staff, diehard organization, convincing endorsements and labor alliances. In the end, that domination of the conventional rules of engagement in a city political contest stands on the candidate’s shoulders. With his win, the politically astute Baraka proved that a superb campaign can still win, despite massive monetary efforts to change the game.
By backing Baraka, the mayor of Jersey City strengthened himself politically with an ally in Newark, thereby broadening his North Jersey urban political base into neighboring Essex County. Of course, Fulop and Baraka will have to watch their backs. Their political enemies are already salivating over the prospect of Baraka tripping up in City Hall and splashing radioactively on Fulop. Today, however, Fulop looks like the gutsy Marine who doesn’t mind sticking a grenade down the tank turret of the establishment.
Amiri “Middy” Baraka
The Bobby Kennedy of the campaign was Team Baraka’s blood-bound enforcer, dutifully protecting his brother on all fronts: overseeing the technical aspects of the operation as well as throwing that well-timed loose elbow as needed.
After the losses in West New York (2011) and Paterson (2012), critics of Fulop’s political operative (as in, competitors) were starting to get comfortable with the assessment that Bertoli can’t leave his Jersey City backyard without fumbling an election. That changed last night when Baraka won the biggest election in the state. Getting props too in the aftermath was Bertoli ally Jason Sokolowski, who was there for the daily ground-game grind.
Public Sector Labor
Anchored by NJ AFL-CIO President Charlie Wowkanech, Essex Central Labor Council Leader Tom Giblin, CWA Local Prez Ken McNamara, and Kevin Brown of 32BJ SEIU, labor went in strong behind Baraka and at-large candidate Eddie Osborne, both of whom won. Having gotten manhandled by Gov. Christie and whittled down to lost cause grins and face-saving minimum wage advocacy last year, public sector labor unions bounced back in a big way last night, using Newark as their staging area for possible future gains.
In a North versus South city showdown, Baraka’s home ward smothered the North and delivered victory to Baraka, who also won the West and Central wards. Back in the track suit and on the campaign trail complete with glossy new autobiography and stories about seeing the light in prison, the former mayor now has two fairly solid allies in City Hall: Baraka and his son, South Ward Councilman-elect John Sharpe James.
A prime ally of the winning mayor’s, the Ocean County Republican chairman showed up at Torres’ victory party at the Brownstone last night ready to light up the dance floor. An ACME truck parked out front at the head of the Gilmore caravan contained boxes of belongings cleared out of Torres’ desk in Jackson now that Paterson’s mayor-elect will no longer be the town’s business administrator.
Jose “Joey” Torres
To hear the opposition tell it, Torres without the Passaic County Democratic Committee’s bench of hotshot operatives was in for a one round kayo against vastly more sophisticated forces in last night’s Paterson mayor’s race. But Torres simply recruited his own band of technicians, a hodgepodge of loyalists and kicked-to-the-curb operatives including unflappable GOTV point person Idida Rodriguez, political operative Omar Rodriguez, Pedro Rodriguez, Bryan Walensky and GOTV animal Jason Carty from Burlington County. Although encumbered by the $74,000 question, Torres showed people he wanted it this time, ran a strong race, outhustled the Sayegh Team 3-1 with vote-by-mail ballots and buried the machine by targeting and going out and rounding up his 8,000 plus votes to beat Sayegh by 1,500 votes.
Close to Sharpe James, the veteran state senator from LD20 helped run not only his own IE ($50,000) but also labor’s ($150,000). The campaign helped canvass, id and got out to vote over 5000 voters.
In Newark: WF’s independent expenditure spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Baraka and helped coordinate the winning mayoral candidate’s ground game. Working Families also backed winning Paterson mayoral candidate Torres.
Hounded by headlines in Ocean County concerning continued absences of his town administrator, the mayor of Jackson won’t have to worry about how to most gingerly get rid of Torres. The Jackson BA’s victory last night in Paterson spares the politically pecked at Reina the further irritation of having to tell Torres he’s done in Jackson.
The acting mayor of Newark always manages to land on his feet, and this time, in his winning run for re-election to his at-large seat, was no exception. Baraka helped get ticket mates Mildred Crump, John Sharpe James and Eddie Osborne across the finish line. Opposition members Carlos Gonzalez, Anibal Ramos and Augusto Amador also got in. Two seats won’t be undecided until June 10, so Baraka’s City Hall power remains temporarily in question. At this moment, the unaffiliated Quintana stands in a strong negotiating position.
By backing Torres for mayor, did Bruce Springsteen with a badge just punch his train ticket out of Alabama? We don’t know the details of any deal, and maybe by cutting a Youtube ad on behalf of Torres at campaign crunch time, Speziale accomplished simply the satisfaction of having his face show up on the computer screens of people who had already written him off. Or maybe the former Passaic County sheriff will show up as Silk City’s new police chief.
He backed Jim Golden in Trenton, so ate a loss there. Mark Smith’s shocking runoff in Bayonne also stung Codey, who was (is) all in with a sputtering Smith. But the 27th District state senator and former acting governor was the most visible public person who backed both Baraka in Newark and Jose “Joey” Torres in Paterson, the night’s two biggest theaters of combat.
At one point, engulfed by another barrage of mail (the Mark Smith campaign released 13 pieces in all), the vastly underfunded campaign manager for Jimmy Davis looked out a rain-soaked HQ window in Bayonne and thought to himself, “Thank God it’s raining.” That’s because DeMarco couldn’t afford to put kids on the streets with Davis signs. Because it was raining, Smith’s paids weren’t out either, and in that weather, no one would know the difference. Now Davis faces a runoff with a shell-shocked Smith.
The former staffer of the late U.S. Frank Lautenberg turned Ras Baraka spokesperson showed how communications outreach is done. Absolutely impeccable professional job.
While nearly everyone in the Passaic County Democratic Party constellation honored Chairman John Currie and supported Andre Sayegh for mayor, Pou stuck with old pal Torres, who won.
The Monmouth County operative’s polls for Torres proved accurate when the former mayor outdistanced Andre Sayegh’s target of 6,000 plus votes.
The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee finds himself in an increasingly interesting and advantageous negotiating spot as Fulop’s strengthened political position with Baraka’s win and the weakening of Joe DiVincenzo (coupled with a South Jersey loss) put the always-important Bergen in play. Paul “never-shy-about-his-own-ambition” Sarlo staked out neutral territory in the Newark mayor’s race.
Bumped out of the Bayonne Mayor’s race last night, Zanowic is obviously in a strong negotiating position as Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith heads into a runoff to fend off challenger Jimmy Davis
The Essex County executive endured a power drain last night as his candidate for mayor, Shavar Jeffries, went belly up in his county’s biggest city. Besides being humiliating locally for DiVincenzo, the loss weakens the one-time commanding North Jersey presence turned Chris Christie-confidant as a statewide architect of Democratic Party designs.
The Jeffries Campaign
Where does one start? From allowing itself to get out-messaged by Baraka on the communications side, to having to absorb the embarrassment of a law and order candidate’s campaign operative tagged with burning the Baraka campaign’s bus, to the dreadful imagery of paid signs-holders snoozing in doorways while Baraka romped to victory, Team Jeffries looked like amateur hour up against a rampaging General Tecumseh Sherman.
Prior to Bridgegate, Fulop and Sweeney were engaged in a fairly politically entertaining and raucous statewide brawl that quietly came to a head in the Newark mayor’s race. While Sweeney publicly stayed out of it, much of the South Jersey Senate President’s political apparatus invested in a Shavar Jeffries victory. Part of Sweeney’s statewide battle plan includes a muscled-up DiVincenzo in Essex, and DiVincenzo just got his knees taken out from under him in Newark.
A strong candidate from the South Ward with a real story to tell who behaved in a classy way both in the thick of the campaign and in loss – a true competitor – Jeffries nonetheless showed himself to be politically unprepared with the campaign he ran. Ultimately, independent expenditure group Newark First all but pushed Team Jeffries out of the way to seize control of a nose-diving nightmare.
Donald Payne, Jr.
He went all in with Jeffries. If he hasn’t picked up the phone already to promise his best efforts to deliver federal resources to the Baraka administration, he’ll be on that pronto, no question.
The Passaic County Democratic chairman sent his two political pupils and strongest assets – Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly (D-35) and assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) on a Pickett’s charge up Seminary Ridge last night, as the establishment-backed Andre Sayegh went down to Torres.
After his thrilling 2012 Democratic Primary victory, the craggy campaign veteran tried to transfer his coattails to a disciple and ended up in an unfamiliar place: the losers’ column.
He ran for mayor of Paterson in 2010 and lost. But that was without the Democratic Party behind him. This time he ran in a field of seven other candidates and with strong establishment support. The talented, supremely well-educated Council President still came up short.
On his way out of City Hall, the incumbent – a people-power messenger with no strings attached in 2010, crticized for putting too many friends in City Hall – got his bell rung, coming in fourth place and narrowly defeating a man under indictment for voter fraud.
George Norcross III
He played and lost. Them’s the rules. Granted, it wasn’t his own backyard, so he can make the argument that he was simply trying to buy a city he didn’t want to have to depend on DiVincenzo to defend. But the experiment proved embarrassing, as the Norcross juggernaut unloaded an air war on Baraka that had Newarkers laughing at the overblown losing enterprise and rejoicing in the chance to topple another horse-bound statue in the statewide public square.
The head of the Newark School System became Baraka’s and public sector labor’s favorite campaign target. Anderson was so toxic that when she appeared in a diner photo with Shavar Jeffries and Jeffries campaign strategist Carl Sharif, Baraka allies acted like their candidate zoomed up in the polls by 20 points. An all-around political disaster.
The Newark-based so-called paper of record was pushed around, tormented and dismantled by PolitickerNJ reporter Mark Bonamo in his outstanding, dominant coverage of the mayor’s race.
TBS network commercials, 13 mail pieces and enormous advantages in cash couldn’t save the mayor of Bayonne from a runoff election against challenger Jimmy Davis. All-in with Ras Baraka in the Newark mayor’s contest, Smith could end up as Newark police director before this is all over.
The Better Education for our Kids (B4K) magnate poured money into the Jeffries campaign and into Jim Golden, Trenton mayoral candidate, two enterprises that went belly up.
Jeff Plaut and his Newark First polling memos couldn’t spare Jeffries the overwhelming voter force of Newark’s South Ward.
Remember that Orange mayor who endorsed Chris Christie at that press conference last year with Joe DiVincenzo? It was payback time locally as the chairman of the local Democratic Party won two out three seats against a wobbly Mayor Warren’s council slate.