The December announcement that Councilman Richard Boggiano would run on Mayor Steven Fulop’s ticket in 2021 seemed to come a political earthquake.
After all, Boggiano had won his seat twice despite Fulop ticket landsides in 2013 and 2017 and most people believed he doesn’t need Fulop to win a third time.
Boggiano has been mistakenly painted at Fulop’s biggest critic during the previous two terms when in fact Boggiano and Fulop appear to have more in common than most people expect.
If anything, the real shock isn’t Boggiano’s so-called capitulation to Fulop, but rather how much Fulop has moved closer to Boggiano’s positions over the last eight years.
When Fulop came on the scene in 2009 – discounting his run against then Rep. Robert Menendez in 2004 – he was considered the progressive shining light and was bolstered by voters in Ward E by far the most progressive part of the city at that time.
Fulop still has a litany of progressive accomplishments especially in regard to LBGTQ and environmental issues, but in some important ways, he has moved to the center of the political spectrum, more moderate than the next generation of progressives.
While Fulop has not yet managed to establish a police academy in Jersey City the way Boggiano wants, he has stood fast against the defunding of the police department, despite heavy pressure from some progressive members of his council and from a large portion of his former progressive base.
This has put him much closer to positions Boggiano – a retired police officer – has taken over the years.
In fact, Boggiano has more than once praised some of Fulop’s positions as far as the police department, including the selection of the current chief, and Fulop’s recent decision to restore some aspects of the off-duty police program.
Fulop shut down the program two years ago in the midst of the scandal, even though Boggiano opposed it. The restoration puts the two former political opponents on the same page.
Boggiano also won a number of key concessions from Fulop in regard to Ward C which he represents such as the city’s decision to buy and demolish the Hudson County Court House, replacing it partly with a park that Boggiano has been lobbying to get for years. Recent moves to turn the No. 3 Reservoir in Jersey City Heights into a nature park is also a political win for Fulop and Boggiano.
Boggiano appears to be getting traction for improvements to other parks as well as an upgrade to the Central Avenue Business district, he and his former Council Colleague, Michael Yun pushed to get.
More importantly, Fulop’s focus on expanding new development to the Journal Square section of the city helps Boggiano most. This includes the rehab of a former Public Service building into the city’s museum, something Boggiano has been pushing to get for more than a decade. New agreements will soon turn the Historic Loew’s Theater into a performing arts center. Boggiano has been seeking to restore the theater for years, using it as a magnet to attract other businesses such as quality restaurants to Journal Square.
The Boggiano-Fulop alliance seems grounded in a number of concessions that will help both candidates next year.
But this alliance should not have come as a shock. Early last year, Fulop had already aligned himself with then Councilman Yun – a staunch Boggiano ally – in trying to find a way to finance the schools in the wake of the state’s drastic cuts in state aid. Had Yun not become a victim of COVID-19, this relationship might have blossomed into something very powerful – since Yun took Fulop to task on many financial issues since taking office in 2013.
In many other ways, Yun and Boggiano became more reliable allies than some members of the council who had run with Fulop in the past. Had Yun survived, Fulop would likely have run next year with him as well.
Nobody yet knows who will run against Fulop for mayor in 2021, but his move to bring a former opponent on his ticket shows political wisdom. Boggiano gives Fulop a strong edge in a part of the city that might otherwise go against him.