In Hudson County parlance, Bill O’Dea is a renaissance man.
He did, after all, write a novel about New Jersey politics.
He does a passable LBJ impression.
He can buck the machine any day of the week and get away with it.
And he can recite the names of Jersey City’s mayors in order the way some precocious children can make their parents proud by rattling off America’s presidents.
Now O’Dea, a colorful long-serving Hudson County Freeholder, looks to add another notch in the Davy Crockett belt of his political life, as he gears up for a 2017 Jersey City mayoral run. A fundraiser he threw last night at Liberty House in Jersey City, complete with O’Dea 2017 banner, drew a cast of hundreds, including, pictured above, Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack. The comparison might gently rile his longtime rival state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32), but Stack is the closest example Hudson has of the classic Frank Hague type, an “I am the Law” lion who prowls the streets and routinely throws temper tantrums if he notices a half full trash can.
Stack’s attendance intrigues, mostly because Stack usually shuns such events, preferring the company of his cellphone and a yellow legal pad crammed with the call back numbers of constituents in need. Getting flash-bulbed with O’Dea suggests that Stack takes the Jersey City native seriously, and might even be prompted to run for county executive in 2019 on the heels, for example, of an O’Dea 2017 win.
To be clear, Stack issued no endorsement.
But O’Dea is telling anyone and everyone that he’s poised to run, and by the looks of last night, that will speed up the contest. A long-serving ally of current Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, O’Dea would be probably be banking on Fulop winning a Democratic Primary for governor in order to follow completely through with a run. There are other details to sort out, too, such as a likely competing candidacy of Assembly Raj Mukherji (D-33), also a close Fulop ally and a proven competent Trenton presence in the Fulop constellation. Neither Mukherji nor O’Dea appears to be in a mood to back down for the other, however.
Remember, O’Dea eyeballed – hard – a run for county executive in 2015, hopeful that Fulop’s anti-establishment victory a year earlier would translate into the young mayor undertaking a total county revolutionary makeover. That didn’t happen, as the universe – Fulop included – lined up behind Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) diehard Tom DeGise in the name of peace.
O’Dea fumed in silence, figuring he’d have his day eventually.
That day might come next year, by the looks of it.
He’d be a tough out, sources say.
He’s a known brand, with a record of challenging county power.
An authentic Jersey City roots music soundtrack accompanies his every utterance.
Whatever happens with Mukherji, one of the two of them or both will most likely face Bill Matsikoudis, former corporation counsel with the Jerry Healy administration.