Hoboken Democratic Party Battle

6/12/2010 Update:

Update: Race for HDP chair shaping up

The race for Hoboken Democratic Party Chair is ironically coming down to a Councilman who received statewide attention to his Pay-to-Play activities, and an activist who was a founding member of People for Open Government.

The effort 411 told you about in April to install the Mayor as Chair died after she failed to get a solid majority of her ironclad supporters elected Tuesday. Due to the loss of several key players like Ann Graham and Brian Assadourian, the “zealots” who would blindly defend the Mayor under any circumstances don’t hold a majority of the seats. Two candidates have emerged as the subject of lobbying and negotiations, and neither is named Dawn Zimmer.

Ravi Bhalla versus Ines Garcia Keim Hoboken Democratic Party Chair

Ines Garcia-Keim vs. Ravinder S. Bhalla

When it became clear Zimmer didn’t have the votes, Councilman Ravi Bhalla began to seek the job. In order to make that happen positions would need to be offered to some of the key “Real Dems” in a form of coalition government. Supporters of Bhalla floated the name of Ines Garcia-Keim as a potential Vice-Chair in exchange for securing votes for Bhalla. If Zimmer and Bhalla truly had the votes, as their internet attack squad claims they do, they wouldn’t have to offer any concessions to anyone from Column C. Not one.

There’s also an effort to draft Garcia-Keim as Chair. The staunch Democrat is a pragmatic liberal whose Hoboken political career includes running as an independent reformer for Board of Ed, City Council and County Freeholder. Ravi Bhalla, however, operates a law firm that operates on the same Pay-to-Play principles that members of the Column B team claimed to be fighting against, and falsely charged the Column C team would restore to the HDP.

A gut check vote on Pay-to-Play

Bhalla has been called out by the Citizens Campaign for receiving lucrative city contracts following large donations to the Political Action Committees (PACs) of the politicians who awarded them. Bhalla was given $120,000 in no-bid contracts after making a $2500 contribution to a PAC connected to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. He also gave $2350 to Union City Mayor Brian Stack’s PAC in 2008, and received a $127,000 contract there.

All of Bhalla’s Pay-to-Play activities – as well as his failure to file the ELEC documents associated with his contributions and contracts – have been widely reported. Bhalla is the new “poster child” for Pay-to-Play, yet the supposedly anti Pay-to-Play slate of candidates is looking to Bhalla to be the new Chairman of the Hoboken Democratic Party.

Garcia-Keim has long record of activism

Ines Garcia-Keim has long been associated with progressive campaigns in Hoboken. A “reform” candidate for 5th ward Council in 2003, and Council-at-Large in 2005, Garcia-Keim also mounted an independent campaign for County Freeholder. A member of the Quality of Life Coalition and founding member of People for Open Government, Garcia-Keim has been very active. Ines provided Spanish translation assistance to Dawn Zimmer in her race against Chris Campos, but didn’t support Zimmer’s campaigns for Mayor. Garcia-Keim has friends across factions and generations, while Bhalla has a reputation for being divisive and embracing the “Them and Us” school of politics.

Who will prevail? Check back Monday night.

The weekend will be busy with ear-bending and arm-twisting galore. There’s also been a lot of calculated misinformation coming out of the Zimmer faction designed to confuse and confound. The numbers show Garcia-Keim is an underdog, but a lot depends on who shows up to the reorganization meeting. There are rumors Column C committee people with connections to the City Payroll have been told they would be “looked upon kindly” by the Zimmer administration if they fail to show up and vote Monday. You do the math.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The bottom line is Hoboken411 talks to people on all sides to get the story, and this is objectively the way it’s shaping up. The choice is up to the committee. What are your thoughts? Comment below.

See previous updates after the jump…

6/10/2010 Update:

Primary Day Recap: Zimmer ekes out HDP majority…

…but key allies lose!

While other Hudson County Mayors easily won overwhelming control in their local Democratic Party Committee races, Hoboken’s Dawn Zimmer barely holds on to a slim majority.

The numbers won’t be final until Friday – with some races decided by just two or three votes.

As Hoboken411 reported in April (see that report after the jump), Zimmer’s forces traded their “independent reformer” branding for the safer confines of the Hudson County Democratic Organization machine line. Diverse political factions against Zimmer united on the ballot as the “Real Hoboken Democrats”.

Zimmer should have run the table in this low-interest, extremely low-turnout election. Instead, she lost several key battles, and may not secure the votes she needs to become Hoboken Democratic Party Chair. 36 districts elect one male and one female committee person for a total of 72. Zimmer failed to field candidates for 26 seats. Many winners only got 20 or 30 votes – some even less! As of today, it appears Zimmer’s HCDO line took 38 seats while her opponents won 34.

Ann Graham puts cart before horse, gets run over

Hoboken Ann Graham Rejected Election Primary NJHoboken Democratic Party Vice-Chair Ann Graham was lobbying to be Chairwoman. Now she won’t even be at the reorganization meeting – whoops! Zimmer’s Planning Board Chair lost her seat in the 5th ward, 6th district (5-6) to Marilyn Morales.

The stunning upset left Zimmer’s group reeling.

Four of Zimmer’s most active supporters lost their seats to the “Real Dems” while Zimmer failed to defeat any of the “Column C” incumbents she targeted. Three of those big losses came in the 5th ward, where opponents are salivating at how vulnerable Councilman Peter Cunningham is beginning to look ahead of the May election.

Zimmer pals Assadourian, Reinardy and Jennings also fall

Brian Assadourian rejected at Hoboken primary election 2010In the 5-5 Zimmer allies Brian Assadourian and Anne Marie Bonner (Peper Apparel) fell to James and Linda Petrozelli.

In the 5-6, Sandra Reinardy lost to Eileen McInerney even though husband (and Planning Board Vice Chair) Keith Furman managed to hold his seat.

Zimmer suffered another blow in her home ward, where Frances Jennings lost the 4-3 seat to Evelyn Lopez.

Some of Zimmer’s allies were encouraging Jennings to consider running for the 4th ward council seat in May if Michael Lenz loses the November special election. This loss may put a damper on that talk.

Bhalla and Marsh fail to defeat Mason and Brigden

Zimmer didn’t field a single candidate in Michael Russo’s 3rd ward, but allies Ravi Bhalla and Carol Marsh recruited challengers to take on Councilwoman Beth Mason’s husband in the 2-1. Their grudge match against Ricky Mason and Gretchen Brigden (of “Louis Picardo, tear down this wall!” fame) failed.

Ines Garcia-Keim and Jason Maurer won the right to represent the 2-2.

Strongest showings: Russo, Holmes, Castellano and Carvalho

While most winners couldn’t even get more than 40 votes, Michelle Russo took the crown with 145 votes (on the voting machines) in the 3-2. The mother of Councilman Michael Russo got more votes for herself than Zimmer could muster for all her 4th ward committeemen candidates combined. Running-mate Michael Holmes received 130. In the 1-2 Councilwoman Theresa Castellano’s son John got 89 votes while Eileen Carvalho secured 84, again not including absentees.

Who gets the gavel now held by Assemblyman Ruben Ramos?

All that’s known for certain right now is it won’t be Ann Graham. Some of the successful committee-persons that ran on Column B are not hard-core Zimmer supporters and may chose someone other than the Mayor to be chair. A lot depends on who shows up, and who makes deals for other positions, such as Vice-Chair, Treasurer, and Sergeant-at-Arms. Hoboken411 isn’t the only one with this assessment of the preliminary results, and what’s to come. “Political Insider” columnist Augie Torres says:

“Tonight, the anti’s now have about as many party committee people as the administration, which had their people on the HCDeadO line. Look for heavy wrangling with independent committee people and a big donnybrook on Monday evening.”

— Torres

Don’t believe the Zimmer-fan hype that the Mayor’s slim majority is a great victory. The rest of the county Mayors see the Hoboken results as a sign of Zimmer’s weakness, and there are more developments to come. Just two defections from the column B team could mean a tie vote, and that’s assuming everyone shows up.

Read Hoboken411’s original preview of this week’s vote and feel free to leave your comment below.


Zimmer looks beyond Mayor’s office

This just in from City Hall – everything is perfect in Hoboken and there’s no longer reason for Mayor Dawn Zimmer to devote all of her time on city business!

Sure, the budget continues to rise with no tax relief, there’s no plan for new parks, and a deadline is looming to vacate the city garage. So what’s Zimmer up to? She’s looking to advance her political career. Not even Mayor for a year and Zimmer is already cutting deals with the political power brokers in Jersey City to grab control of the Hoboken Democratic Party.

Another broken promise from Zimmer

Hoboken Dawn Zimmer HeadshotWhen Dawn Zimmer was running for city council in 2007, she repeatedly claimed she had no interest in politics beyond the Fourth Ward. Less than two years later she was running for Mayor, saying THAT would be the end of her political line. Now Zimmer wants to chair the Hoboken Democratic Party, setting herself up for a higher, partisan office.

As part of her quest, Zimmer agreed to place her candidates for Democratic District Committee on Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy’s HCDO line. This is the same Healy who has seen much of his organization – including a Deputy Mayor and City Council President – scooped up in the same federal sting as Peter Cammarano. It’s been widely reported that Zimmer is making deals with Healy, who heads the Hudson County Democratic Organization.

Doubtful? It’s in the paper nobody in Hoboken reads

Hudson County’s only daily newspaper may sadly be a dying tabloid mockery of it’s former self, but Augie Torres still manages to crank out an entertaining Political Insider column. His last two efforts focused on Zimmer’s latest turn toward the HCDO:

“I told you that Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy went out into the Hoboken daylight and met with Zimmer in her office. He pledged his support for her and in return her party committee people would pledge their Hudson County Democratic Organization vote in June for HCDO chairman to County Executive Tom DeGise.

Yup, the same Tom DeGise that allowed his county freeholders to take back Open Space grant money promised to Hoboken to purchase land for the Southwest Park.

Zimmer bug eye close up“Then Healy went a step too far and told Zimmer that she can pick the freeholder, a choice the two mayors share because the Hoboken freeholder also represents the Jersey City Heights. The problem is that the Jersey City mayor may not have informed DeGise and others of what he was offering Zimmer. It may be a bold move because the present Hoboken Freeholder is Anthony “Stick” Romano. Romano is not without some influence. He supposedly has some powerful friends, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez among them, but all this is about bucking Menendez’s choice for HCDO chairman, Stack. Why do I want to use Hoboken developer Frank Raia’s name here?”

Remember Zimmer endorsed Raia for Freeholder two years ago over Romano and longtime reformer Ines Garcia-Keim. Torres continues:

“At least Zimmer is finding her niche within the HCDO.”

Yup. The same HCDO she said she would never seek support from, right before she took thousands of runoff campaign dollars from DeGise and Healy. The HCDO was also the home of former Mayor Dave Roberts, who was also supported by Mike Lenz, Carol Marsh and Tony Soares. Seeing a trend here?

Hudson Shark calls her “Boss Zimmer”

County politics blogger Hudson Shark also weighs in with an alternate view of who Zimmer will support to replace Romano.

The Hudson Shark says:

Hudson Shark Logo“While some are speculating that Frank Raia will be Zimmer’s candidate it is more likely she will encourage the Pupster to run against 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo. Smart money is on Zimmer giving the Freeholder Seat to our pal Tony “I backed the winning Board of Education ticket and now work for the Hoboken School System, while continuing to be an attack dog for the BOE ticket I support” Soares.”

The mean-spirited, local business attacking Soares isn’t welcome here, but I hear he’s been busy writing vicious attacks on the Revolt boards, along with other easily manipulated multiple screen name-allowing sites. Hudson Shark also takes a shot at a member of the Soares/Zimmer majority on the Zoning Board:

“Zimmer’s latest tactic as the new Boss in Hoboken is to enlist the aid of the Graphix Avenger the assumed online identity of Zoning Board member Nancy Pincus. We support the first amendment and if Ms. Pincus feels to exercise that right by Photo Shopping the pictures of Hoboken Board of Education Candidates into a bowl with a floating log of human excrement that is her prerogative. But does she really belong sitting on a board that makes important decisions for Hoboken when behaving this way?”

The weekly paper’s political column led with the Zimmer/HCDO talk, but there’s nothing worth quoting from it. It reads like the writer was half asleep and not paying attention to what his sources were saying. Even I don’t think Zimmer would actually go back on HDO Vice Chair Ann Graham’s word and use the HDO to fund the 2011 City Council races, would she? Hmmm…. on second thought maybe Al Sullivan is onto something. Time will tell.

OK, that’s enough inside baseball for now. I know most of you hate this stuff, but it’s an election week that also has a City Council meeting mixed in. You’re not the only one suffering through this!

Dawn Zimmer Benedict Arnold Parody Hoboken NJ Hoboken411 BZ

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010 12:52 pm

Next main event is Nov. 4th Ward Council Election!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 11:03 am

Well. For those not aware, here’s the vote results: 38 for Ravi Bhalla; 27 for Ines Garcia Keim or 58% to 42%. Also, Mayor Zimmer is Honorary Chair.

Saturday, June 12, 2010 9:50 am

Here’s a novel take on the situation. They all suck. Zimmer (and I voted for her, now regrettably), Russo, Bhalla, Garcia-Keim, Cunningham, Lenz, Mason, Roberts, Cammarano, Castellano, etc. etc. Seriously, is there a single one of them you would trust to run this city and not make things worse?

Thursday, June 10, 2010 4:39 pm

🙂 Now that was a quality “puttin in place” 411

Thursday, June 10, 2010 1:59 pm

I’m not impressed with Russo’s numbers, no one was running against her. How many Personal choices came out of the 3-2?

I would count those as protest votes.

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