The locals saw it, and their heads turned.
At Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s City Hall press conference on Tuesday a recognizable local figure showed up and stood at the outskirts of the activity.
This person had shown up to “gloat,” in the words of one person familiar with the dynamics of how and why the endorsement went down. He was front and center, shaking people’s hands and saying things like “glad we are on the same team.”
Insiders knew him mostly because of a publicized row he had with the mayor going back to 2013.
It was former Police Chief Robert “Bubba” Cowan, and in the hours following Fulop’s shocking exit from the 2017 governor’s race he increasingly became the subject of considerable local speculation.
Two sources today told PolitickerNJ that Cowan possesses evidence backing up his claims in a lawsuit that Fulop tried to politicize his police duties in a mini local version of Bridgegate.
Jersey Journal reporter Terrence McDonald has a story related to that subject here.
Allies of Fulop’s often fretted about the mayor’s eagerness at times to be his own operative and tilt at backroom windmills over their most vociferous Sancho Panza entreaties. His nose-to-nose encounters with Cowan prior to bouncing the chief may be those instances where he took it too far, Jersey City sources told PolitickerNJ.
One source said Murphy was ready – if he had to – to use the Cowan story to reinforce the ugly optics of Fulop’s own Bridgegate footprint, and pay a lot of money to get it out there and smelt Fulop down before he even got a chance to get in the contest.
Now the question among those once fierce allies of Fulop is whether the mayor will be able to get through this dogging story with Cowan sufficiently to run again for mayor and win.
In a tweet earlier today, Cowan acted like they were all on the same team again, that life is “full of twists and turns,” and Fulop of course declared his intent to run again.
But tonight members of his once stout circle have their doubts.
If Fulop ends up not running for reelection in Jersey City, a city showdown could develop pitting Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) against Hudson County Freeholder Bill O’Dea, with former Jerry Healy corporation counsel Bill Matsikoudis a third likely contestant.
The situation is volatile.