He has had a habit of hanging around, the upstart former councilman who this week assumed the oath of office to make history and become the first African American mayor of Linden. He’ll have his challenges. Before beating – in a rematch – independent incumbent Richard Gerbounka, Armstead defeated the Democratic Party machine in last year’s primary and wounds remain from that long-existing schism. It will be a challenge not only for the new mayor, who must work with a council not of his own making, but for Union County Democratic Chairman Jerry Green, who has undertaken the task of helping relations between Armstead and establishment Democrats.
The Republican mayor of Atlantic City continues to occupy a very difficult political position. While the Democratic city council and Republican freeholder board openly defy the gaming packages put forth by those allies of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Guardian has been muted on the subject. Who can soon forget his opting out of an appearance before the Assembly Gaming Committee? Further removing the mayor from a forward combat role in the debate are those sudden and continuing gaming summits in the city where state officials – Gov. Chris Christie among them – express the desire for more state control.
Already up against it in crime-ridden Irvington, the mayor – sworn into office last summer – faces a renewed challenge now in his
home city without the presence of his friend and mentor D. Bilal Beasley. Long the power behind the throne in Irvington, the freeholder who shifted his support from veteran incumbent Wayne Smith to Vauss, Mr. Beasley died last month, sending a shock wave through local politics. Vauss set an early tempo in Irvington of Brian P. Stack-like visibility in the streets – a good sign. But did the new mayor learned enough politics from the master to navigate what become a thornier political environment with Smith still in the wings and Mr. Beasley gone?
Up for re-election this year, the mayor of West New York must contend with former pal Commissioner Count Wiley. Speaking on condition of anonymity at this week’s county reorganization ceremony, a source with intimate knowledge of West New York politics said 2015 won’t be a cakewalk for Roque, who had to beat a hacking conspiracy charge to stay in office. On the plus side, Roque has a skillful political handler in Pablo Fonseca, who demonstrated cross over ability from Essex to Hudson when he successfully steered the Caridad Rodriguez campaign over incumbent Jose Munoz in a grudge match, of sorts. Arguably Roque’s biggest challenge will be satisfying the myriad political appetites of those bosses in his midst – state Senator Nick Sacco, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez – who all stand now on a power projection platform in the town since Roque’s weakening through the turbulence of his trial and aftermath. Is Wiley skillful enough to make the case that Roque joined the league of those same rank personages they once swore to fight, or, as the source groaned amid the columns at the swearing-in ceremony, is he going to be his own worst enemy?
Sources in Hillside say new Council President Savonia Saxton will work with Garretson, who’s been mayor of the town now for a year. The good news for Garretson is that Saxton is not controlled by longtime power broker Charlotte DeFilippo, the former chair of the Union County Democratic Party with whom Garretson struggled early in her tenure. The unknown, however, is whether Garretson can forge a local partnership with Saxton unhindered by those political forces beyond the town that might ultimately try to use Saxton to overthrow the sitting mayor.