11th Hour: The Roots of the Intertwined Political Lives of GOTV-Mode Menendez and Stack

MOONACHIE – They kind of grew up together, a quasi Romulus and Remus mismatched by time and, as it turned out, politics, ultimately reunited by what the torments of time wrought into this, a last stand salvo by Bob Menendez at the side of Brian P. Stack, a statewide campaign undergirded by the common crib of Union City.

They didn’t get along early.

Stack idolized Mayor Bill Musto, the man Menendez took down in bulletproof vest mode.

So there was some built-in animosity at the outset.

Plus, Menendez as mayor always prized that portrait of then-Senator Bill Bradley in a nod to his own federal aspiration, while Stack nursed a scruffy prodigal street kid’s penchant for the throne of local power.

Menedez and Stack

Amid a lot of casualties, each finally got that he wanted: the senate seat in Menendez’s case and the mayoral perch Stack craved.

Now Stack has Menendez, cradling the wounded senator as the pair attempt one last GOTV stagger up the ramparts.

Their opponent, Bob Hugin, as it would turn out, also hails from Union City, and – in a move that astounded the hands-on Stack forces – mailed letters in English (and Spanish!) to all Union City voters. They cropped up in mailboxes today.

Sweat broke out.

This guy Hugin was good.

He had the nerve to mess with them psychologically and they, in spite of themselves, loved it.

Now it was their turn.

At Graycliff tonight in Moonachie, Stack held his usual Civic Association event, a big, awesome overflow occasion with all the usual allies in tow, and headlined by Governor Phil Murphy and Menendez.

“We’re going to win,” Murphy told Stack, forehead to forehead with the mayor in the foyer with Menendez right behind him.

They clambered onto a stage that also contained U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, former Governor James McGreevey and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, among others (including a late-arriving First Lady Tammy Murphy).

Amid the shelling – another ad on the tube today featuring Hugin making a commitment to fight President Donald J. Trump – Stack went after Hugin.

“When I hear the stories about the other candidate coming from Union City – make no mistake about it, there’s one candidate that represented Union City that’s running statewide,” said the mayor.

That’s Menendez, he said.

He cited work ethic.

That’s what finally unites them, Stack insisted.

“Talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends, take nothing for granted,” the mayor yelled.

They’ve known each other for 40 years.

“I’m still young, though, Bob – I’ve known him almost my entire life,” Stack cracked.

They embraced.

Then Menendez grabbed the mic.

“He lives and breathes and works ,” said the incumbent senator. “Sometimes when I have a meeting with him and I try to talk to him and he’s on the phone.

“What drives him, drives me: being able to change the course of someone’s life,” Menendez added.

He and Stack fought through the political wars, often on opposing sides.

But the Union City mayor and state senator showed up at Menendez’s corruption trial – in support of his fellow hometown brand. Menendez appreciated it, as he appreciates now the final lunge of effort from the machine with origins in another troubled era.

“I do have one Republican trait in me,” Menendez said. “I have an elephant memory.

“A friend in need is a friend indeed, and I’m not going to forget it,” he said to Stack.

Union City was ready, and at least when it came to an organizational edge here, Hugin – reining artillery – was on the outside of the ground-level local engine room.

“Even though we’re not in Union City, Union City’s in the house tonight,” observed Murphy.


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