11/4/2010:

Latest Count: Occhipinti 1231; Lenz 825

In the end, it wasn’t even close. Challenger Tim Occhipinti defeated Michael Lenz on the voting machines at the polls by 50 votes, making the Vote-By-Mail tally moot.

In the end it wasn’t the VBM’s that put Occhipinti over the top. It was the nearly 400 votes for Occhipinti on the machines in Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s “stronghold” 4-2 and 4-1 districts. These voters walked through a green-shirted gauntlet to vote against the Mayor’s handpicked choice to represent them.

406 vote margin is impossible for Lenz to overcome

Lenz ran as Zimmer’s 5th vote. Occhipinti told voters he wants to put the 4th ward first.

That message resonated as Occhipinti racked up support in all 4 districts. The appointed incumbent’s marketing strategy was a weak attempt to transfer some goodwill from Dawn Zimmer onto Lenz. When campaign polling showed it wasn’t working (and Zimmer wasn’t as popular as they thought), Lenz went hard negative in a clear sign of desperation. Allegations of fraud, intimidation and corruption were handed out like Halloween candy. To date, none have been shown to have any basis in fact. Lenz was losing – and they knew it – so they threw the kitchen sink at their opponent.

A week before the election, Lenz made a strategic move to call the Vote-By-Mail ballots into question in the hope he would win the Election Day machine vote. This would give him a platform from which to scream “I wuz robbed!” and be branded a martyr. The voters of the 4th ward didn’t give him that opportunity. Occhipinti beat Lenz on the machines by a 50-vote margin, making the VBM’s moot.

After challenges on procedural issues, Lenz got 34 mail-in votes while Occhipinti got 390.

Sore losers at the City Council meeting last night

At first Lenz wouldn’t concede. He continued his campaign rhetoric even as Zimmer was admitting the matter was over, and she was moving on.

Lenz still hasn’t congratulated Occhipinti. That lack of class transferred to the council meeting last night. Lenz didn’t attend, but Occhipinti did. Since the election hasn’t been certified he couldn’t be sworn in, but it’s clear he’s the Councilman-Elect.

Mike Russo thanked Lenz for his service and congratulated Occhipinti on his win. Most people in the room applauded Occhipinti, but not the four remaining members of the former Zimmer Majority. They refused, and actually amped up the rhetoric of division throughout the meeting.

The campaign is over. Time to govern.

Instead of putting the campaign behind them and getting down to the business of government, Zimmer’s council members want to keep the election hype going until the next one comes along. They are the very definition of sore losers, each more astonished than the next that the voting public doesn’t see them as the “smartest, bestest people in the city.”

Zimmer, Dave Mello, Peter Cunningham and Carol Marsh made this a race about them, and they lost. Big. By over 400 votes – almost 200 of them on the machines in Zimmer and Mello’s home district alone.

The only votes left to count are a few provisional paper ballots and military votes. These will be dealt with tomorrow when the Hudson County Board of Elections is expected to certify the results, allowing Occhipinti to take his place on the council.

11/2/2010 Update:

Occhipinti Romps

Early reports suggest that Tim Occhipinti defeated Mike Lenz on the voting machines 841 to 791. Vote by Mail and Provisional votes not included in those numbers… More to come.

11/1/2010 Update:

The Final Countdown in the 4th Ward

The 4th ward campaign is down to its final hours as both sides prepare to get out their vote on Election Day. Here’s a rundown of the stories every 4th ward voter should read before entering the voting booth. Click on the hotlinks to see more.

Remember when unelected councilman Michael Lenz declared his team was “Not elected to cut taxes?”

After you watch the video above, check out the original Deconstructing Michael Lenz post outlining Lenz’s decades in Hudson County politics that was later expanded on by PolitickerNJ.

Additionally:

Lenz Hoboken benefits saves $4500 for himself

When he was appointed 4th ward councilman in 2009, Lenz opted out of the Health Insurance Plan at his full-time job and signed on to the City benefits plan. That put an additional $4500 into his pocket while costing city taxpayers $23,000. Lenz also arranged for political ally Tony Soares to receive Health Benefits and a $5000 stipend in a deal appointing him to the North Hudson Sewarage Authority board.

As councilman, Lenz has been a key player in botching the $25.5 million sale of the Municipal Garage, as well as handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to politically connected law firms associated with his bosses.

By far the biggest hypocrisy of his short time on the council is the story Hoboken411 broke about how two developers returned a favor to Lenz after he supported a height variance on their property. Lenz met with the developer in a North Bergen diner, voted his way and collected $1000 in campaign contributions. Last Friday a Superior Court Judge rejected the Lenz campaign’s vote-by-mail suppression effort, which was seen as ironic considering the shenanigans Lenz was part of in the 2007 4th ward race.

Hoboken411 stories on Tim Occhipinti

Tim Occhipinti hasn’t been around Hoboken politics as long as Michael Lenz, but he’s made his mark over the past year. After an unsuccessful independent campaign for Council-at-Large in 2009, Occhipinti stayed involved as a founder of Hoboken Volunteers and board member of the Boys and Girls club.

During the early summer heatwave Occhipinti asked why the city didn’t plan to open the community swimming pool before late July. Occhipinti also called out City Hall for scheduling a Sunday night meeting to suppress public participation on a $16 million bond vote.

Occhipinti found himself directing traffic when a tractor-trailer took out the signal at the intersection of Paterson and Jackson, and led a community brainstorming session regarding the horrible traffic situation in Southwest Hoboken. Occhipinti also brought attention to the terrible conditions Hoboken’s youngest soccer players are facing and sounded the alarm about the lack of progress on a Southwest Park and redevelopment plan.

See the original Fourth Ward Special Election preview below. The polls open at 6am Tuesday morning and close at 8pm. Stay with Hoboken411 for continuing coverage!

9/27/2010 Update:

Occhipinti opens HQ, secures Ramos endorsement

4th ward council candidate Tim Occhipinti opened his new campaign headquarters this weekend on a high visibility corner at Monroe and Observer. Here’s a campaign-provided video of Occhipinti’s brief speech, where he describes the 4th ward as the Heart or Hoboken, celebrates it’s diversity and takes aim at his “opponents” in this race.

Occhipinti also secured the endorsement of Assemblyman and former 4th ward councilman Ruben Ramos, who was dressed in red for his beloved Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Lenz plans to open HQ in a residential zone

While Occhipinti followed conventional Hoboken campaign wisdom (and the Zoning Code) by opening his HQ in a retail storefront, un-elected councilman Michael Lenz is operating the business of his campaign out of a residential apartment building. The Lenz HQ will be located at 60 Madison Street. It’s a convenient location for Mayor Dawn Zimmer, whose 3622 square foot, 3-bedroom Triplex is located right across the street at 59 Madison.

9/24/2010 Update:

Occhipinti opens Campaign HQ; Sanford drops out

The 4th Ward Special Election is still over a month out – but a quick Friday update for you…

The hardly-known candidate James Sanford backed out as fast as he entered (I guess the Lenz & Zimmer ties put the kibosh on that..) and main contender Tim Occhipinti announces the opening of his campaign headquarters “kick off” event tomorrow, Saturday, September 25th at 11am. Located at the old Hoboken Fish & Pets at the corner of Monroe & Observer.

“Please join us as we kick off our campaign for the 4th Ward City Council seat by opening our campaign headquarters this Saturday, September 25th at 11am. Meet our campaign team and your neighbors and friends who believe it’s time for an independent spirit in the 4th Ward.

I hope you can stop by and say hello, have a cup of coffee and munchkin and find out how you can join our effort. I appreciate all the support you have shown so far and look forward to seeing you this Saturday!

Sincerely,
Tim Occhipinti, 4th Ward Council Candidate

9/17/2010:

Occhipinti vs. Lenz (and some other guy)

The deadline to file petitions to run in the November Special Election has passed setting up a showdown between appointed 4th ward (appointed) councilman Michael Lenz and challenger Tim Occhipinti.

Lenz is a longtime Hoboken political player and Hudson County employee who holds a patronage job at the Meadowview government complex. Occhipinti is a relative newcomer who works as an Application Support Analyst for an asset management firm’s buy-side trading desk. The two major candidates each have a base to work from, but it’s anybody’s guess which campaign will have what it takes to attract and motivate the undecided voters necessary to win.

A first: No Traditional `Old Hoboken` candidate

Occhipinti’s limited personal base includes people he’s worked with as a board member of the Boys and Girls Club and Hoboken Volunteers, his friends and neighbors. The 4th ward is the most ethnically and economically diverse in the city. It includes the largest concentration of Hoboken Housing Authority residents, as well senior housing at 400 1st Street and 220 Adams. With no traditional “Old Hoboken” candidate emerging from the Hispanic and Italian communities, Occhipinti’s base has grown substantially. Potential candidates such as former Councilwomen-at-Large Terry LaBruno and Nellie Moyeno decided not to run this time.

Lenz needs Zimmer voters, but many upset with Soares vote

Lenz’s base is personified by a cadre of angry, single, middle-aged former advertising executives. They have time on their hands to bang their keyboards hard on sites that allow them to spread bile under multiple screen names. (The rule-breakers aren’t welcome here, but honest Lenz supporters who don’t violate Hoboken411 policies are welcome to post valid opinions on this race.) Mayor Zimmer appeared at Lenz’s campaign kickoff, held at the home of reigning Hoboken Back-Stabbing Champion Jake Stuiver, who also serves as Lenz’s Treasurer.

Expanding the base, Lenz vote for Soares looms large

Both Lenz and Occhipinti need to expand their base to attract the condo-dwelling young couples and families who changed the political face of the ward.

Some have moved out since Zimmer first ran in 2007 while others have become disillusioned with the Mayor. Many still remain loyal to Zimmer, but are far less enthusiastic about Lenz. His vote to give Tony Soares the North Hudson Sewerage Authority seat (with it’s $5000 salary and medical benefits) set off a firestorm of criticism among Zimmer’s hard-core supporters. Many say they won’t support Lenz in the way they backed Zimmer, which has forced Lenz to reach out to other wards to find people to work on his campaign. Occhipinti will also have a wealth of volunteers from outside the ward thanks in large part to the polarizing figure he’s running against. There are already hundreds of voters salivating at the opportunity to vote against Lenz, but that won’t be enough for Occhipinti to win. He will also need to earn support from people who don’t know Lenz from Adam.

So who is this third guy who filed petitions?

While Lenz and Occhipinti have spent several months preparing for this showdown, a third candidate managed to get enough signatures (about 100) to get his name on the ballot at the last minute.

James Jeremy Sanford is a member of the Hoboken Republican Committee with ties to GOP allies of Zimmer and Lenz. What little is known about him makes it clear he is in no way a serious contender for the seat. To the extent he would get any votes at all, Lenz’s supporters are counting on them coming out of the potential support pool for Occhipinti. Lenz himself is rumored to be making deals to campaign side-by-side with Hudson County Sheriff Juan Perez, who is running on the Republican line for re-election.

Lenz: Campaign strategy much like Zimmer

Watch for Lenz to “Stay Positive” in his official campaign materials, while operatives go extremely negative with “independent” attacks on Occhipinti online and in midnight fliers.

His allies will likely launch a viral campaign to make it appear as though Sanford has a base of support that should make him be taken seriously in order to divert undecided voter attention away from Occhipinti. They’re also counting on the traditional newspapers to be “fair” and offer equal space to all three candidates, again diluting the waters. From the beginning and to the end this is a race between Lenz and Occhipinti.

Hoboken411 will post basic campaign information from Sanford (should he provide it) but won’t pretend to consider him a viable candidate in this race.

The fourth ward should buckle up for yet another bumpy ride!

Hoboken NJ

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