With campaign season about to swing into high gear, battle lines are being drawn in the competitive Hoboken. Last night, Mayor Dawn Zimmer held a fundraiser to announce “Team Zimmer,” the ward candidates she is endorsing for the city council.
Wednesday night also marked an official announcement from Ruben Ramos—who ran against Zimmer for Mayor and lost in 2013—that he would be seeking the ward 4 seat.
In ward 1, Michael DeFusco, got the Mayor’s endorsement, along with Tiffanie Fisher from ward 2, Dana Wefer in ward 4, Peter Cunningham in ward 5 and Jen Giattino in ward 6. Ward 3 does not have a candidate on the “Team Zimmer” slate because incumbent Michael Russo is running uncontested and Zimmer has not endorsed him.
Like Ramos, Occhipinti challenged Zimmer for mayor and lost. Zimmer also has a contentious relationship with Terry Castellano of ward 1 and Carmelo Garcia from ward 6. Now, Zimmer has officially come out supporting DeFusco’s challenge of Castellano’s 21-year stint on the council. Garcia has both a lawsuit pending with the Hoboken Housing Authority and got flak last year for recording a conversation with former state Senator Bernie Kenny and Zimmer’s husband.
So is Zimmer putting her name behind these candidates in an effort to keep her alliances in Hoboken strong? According to one insider, the answer is yes.
“Her numbers are very strong in Hoboken,” the source told PolitickerNJ. “She wants people to know and identify that it is her team and her team is important. This is making is so that it is not five individual ward races, but one slate that everyone can identify with her name.”
Looking beyond the mayor’s slate, the other candidates look less organized.
Though Garcia and Ramos have worked as Assemblyman in the past—and were both on the wrong side of issues with state Senator Brian Stack that contributed to the eventual loss of those positions—Garcia’s ongoing litigation poses a problem for their unification.
“The other side—the Ruben side—is concerned with how deep they want to go with Carmelo because of the issues he has had with the Housing Authority,” the source said. “There are legal issues there. There is potential for issues in eight, ten, 12 months.”
Even so, at his kickoff event on August 5, Garcia touted his ability to “transcend Hoboken’s divisions” and portrayed himself as the candidate who could connect Zimmer’s group of younger families and New York City commuters with the mainly-Latino group of life-long residents.
Garcia told PolitckerNJ that he heard from “friends who were in attendance” at the Team Zimmer event that “those in attendance were mostly city vendors.”
“I think that demonstrates the hypocrisy of the administration and of the mayor,” Garcia said.
According to Wefer, who counts Zimmer as a friend, she is “very excited” to have the support of the mayor. In Ward 4, Wefer is challenging incumbent Tim Occhipinti and Ramos.
“I think that having the support of a mayor is huge in a race like this,” Wefer told PolitickerNJ. “It is a big boon to the ticket.”
According to Occhipinti, the independence of candidates who are not running on “Team Zimmer” might actually be a positive.
“I think it comes down to what a resident is looking for out of a candidate,” Occhipinti told PolitickerNJ. “Are they looking for a proven track record, someone who has shown they can do something for their ward? That is going to supersede someone saying ‘Go vote for this person.’ Good policy should always trump politics. Being independent is not a bad thing. No one wants to be a rubber stamp.”
The ward races in Hoboken will be hotly contested. There will not be a mayoral election until 2017.