JERSEY CITY – Jim McGreevey packed a small restaurant for his mayoral campaign kickoff.
Bill O’Dea packed a large banquet room.
So, what’s that mean?
Then again, we already are seeing how a mayoral campaign that’s still almost two years away is shaping up in New Jersey’s second largest city.
As the kickoff bash unfolded for now county commissioner O’Dea at The View at Lincoln Park, some of the many speakers talked about their candidate’s commitment to the city.
He is the type of guy, they said, who is always ready to help those in need. If you have a problem, go see Commissioner O’Dea, or before that, City Councilman O’Dea.
This is the type of stuff you hear about many politicians when they’re seeking higher office.
But in this case,.Team O’Dea has to hope it has more meaning.
McGreevey is, of course, a former governor who infamously resigned, but has worked hard to rehabilitate his image.
And proving that politics only leaves a person’s bloodstream when the blood stops flowing, he now wants to return to public office as mayor. All well and good, but while McGreevey was born in Jersey City, he didn’t live there for very long. He grew up in Middlesex County and relocated to Jersey City relatively recently.
O’Dea, who is 64, has lived there all his life, a point directly – and indirectly – made at his kickoff.
Some speakers somewhat cryptically spoke of “outsiders” trying to tell city residents what to do and some said a mayor must understand the pulse of city streets and its different neighborhoods.
O’Dea referenced his lifelong status as a city resident, noting that he once had a job cutting the grass at Lincoln Park.
As for policy, O’Dea said he was a “progressive before we were called progressives.” Actually, they were called “liberals” in the old days, but for some reason, that’s become a pejorative – at least for some.,
O’Dea generally spoke of things with which few would quibble.
They included support for development that helps an entire community, affordable housing, good schools and such recreational services as summer camps and youth centers in every ward.
In many cases, however, city elections are won and lost on such intangible things as how voters perceive a candidate.
And the O’Dea strategy seems simple – convince voters he’s more “one of them” than McGreevey is.
“We the people of Jersey City must determine our own destiny,” is how O’Dea put it.
One problem on the horizon would be more candidates entering the race, which is certainly possible. If that happens, it would eliminate a one-on-one battle and that figures to help the former governor.
And given the fact, this election is so far off in the future, you can expect more candidates.
O’Dea’s kickoff attracted a few local politicos, including the Hudson County Clerk and Registrar.
Most of the Democratic establishment so far is with McGreevey with one of the most notables perhaps being Sen. Brian Stack, who is also mayor of Union City.
And speaking of that party establishment, Tammy Murphy was in the area as well last week when O’Dea kicked off his campaign.
What was she up to?
The First Lady, and now U.S. Senate candidate, was in Union City with Stack and other local bigwigs taking part in the Stack civic association’s annual turkey giveaway.