Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick

February 24, 2007  Jersey Journal

What best describes the anxiety of late among Hudson County politicians can be found in the Buffalo Springfield lyrics of "For What It's worth":

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound

Everybody look what's going down .

Time is running out for the Hudson County Democratic Organization. The deadline for filing petitions for candidacy is approaching for one key election.

Most of the Democratic leaders are standing around looking at each other trying to decide who is going to stop the civil war that has already been unofficially declared. Where is Bob Menendez when you need him?

It gets tiring to rehash all this for new readers, so those who know the story can skip the next two paragraphs and skim some others.

A group of HCDO leaders is trying to protect state Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny of Hoboken, chairman of the HCDO, from Union City Mayor and Assemblyman Brian P. Stack who wants the 33rd District Senate seat. The HCDO feeling is that a strong effort could upset Stack, who is the same person they told could replace Kenny.

Other reasons for picking a fight include HCDO attempt to dictate to Bayonne Mayor and state Sen. Joseph Doria who he should name as his Assembly running mates, and North Bergen Mayor and state Sen. Nick Sacco who wants to maintain his perceived North Hudson leadership position, by making life difficult for Stack.

There are many potential fronts in this war, but the main ones are in the three state legislative districts, 31st, 32nd and 33rd, and the May municipal race in West New York. If the deep division remains, then the first conflict is the West New York election with petition filings expected this month.

Problems began in West New York because Albio Sires left to serve as the 13th District member of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he did not work out a plan of transition with his hand-picked successor, Mayor and 33rd Assemblyman Sal Vega. No one else in the county really understood this until this week. Other Dems were shocked to learn that somehow, the West New York politicians actually believed for a moment that they could trust each other.

As Sires started his congressional term, he learned that Vega was bringing back some of the old supporters of Sire's arch rival, Anthony M. DeFino, and after constantly hearing that the Sire's name was being mispronounced by the new hires as a four-letter word, the friction between Vega and Sires could be termed a local Cuban Missile Crisis.

No one trusts anyone and fearful that Sires may finance opposition in the May election, Vega started to hear the siren song coming from down the Ho Chi Minh trail from neighboring North Bergen and Sacco.

Vega and his Town Hall advisor, Neil Carroll, met with Sires and Stack over the three-day Presidents Day weekend and some came away believing there was a tentative patching up of differences.

"I think things are fine with all of us, once we went over potential vulnerabilities," said Sires in his best Pollyanna interpretation of events. "Sal wants to be mayor - and assemblyman. Union City and West New York, together, makes it a done deal."

So, this week Sires hosts a fundraising event at - where else - Puccini's in Jersey City. It's a good turn out of supporters and politicians. Newark North Ward boss Steve Adubato Sr.showed up. Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, who is also Sires' chief of staff in New Jersey, and other officials also attended.

From Kenny's Hoboken, it was explained that there was a council meeting that evening. West New York Administrator Howard "Bud" Demellier appeared as Vega's alibi. Demellier explained that many of the victims who were washed out of their homes by a major water main break descended on the mayor at a commission meeting. The residents were feeling abandoned by United Water and their insurance companies.

Still, when the fund-raiser was over, Sires, Turner and several other officials stayed and waited. It was becoming obvious to some that they were waiting to see if Vega showed up. The staff at Puccini's were putting out place settings for breakfast while Sires and company waited. Vega never came.

Today, Vega is on vacation in Florida and Sires is on a congressional committee in New Orleans reviewing the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina. Everyone else is still waiting to see if they can work out their differences. Tick, tick, tick, tick.


- Not everyone wants peace in the valley. This columnist gets calls every day from people begging for me to tell them that there will be an all-out political war in the county. I ask you elected officials and civic association leaders - and you know who you are - to stop with those phone calls. Send e-mails.

- Doria is one major HCDO leader who spent a length of time talking to the perceived opposition at Puccini's. There was a positive reaction at the event with several officials from both sides saying that perhaps some sanity will return to the Democratic Party.

Then again, Doria was the one sacrificed by the HCDO in 2002 when Sires was selected to become Speaker of the Assembly. He was also the target of a certain Board of Freeholders publicist during his municipal election. And, now he is one of those with the most to lose in any HCDO split.

At least things are looking up in Bayonne. The city now has the land to put in its well-publicized miniature golf course. The only question for some officials is if there is enough space for a golf cart path.

- It's a weekend with Bernie. It seems state Democratic officials (through Gov. Corzine) will again go over life as they see it with Kenny. They may sense that he has less fire and brimstone in him these days and he may voluntarily step down as senator. Besides, the Ides of March are not that far off.

- County sources say that former Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo is expected out of federal prison in June. Russo was sentenced in May 2005 to 30 months in prison after he admitted accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes for government contracts. When Russo returns, will he notice any changes?

- Any pols out there want to call and set me straight - I offer an invitation to have a chat. Otherwise, see you all Wednesday.

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