The Coming Family Feud in Hudson County

Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise and her father, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.

Oscar Wilde once pointed out that the best way to annoy your enemies is to forgive them.

But for Joe Biden this may be bad advice, since nothing better could have happened to fire him up than to have President Donald Trump allegedly try to use Ukraine to go after Biden’s son.

Whether the media reports are true matters very little as long as Biden believes it is.

Biden is in a battle with Elizabeth Warren for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party – in particular in Hudson County where young and old are looking for a firebrand who – if U.S. Senator Cory Booker fails to reach his funding threshold – can take the fight to Trump in next year’s presidential election.

While Warren and a host of progressive Democrats have not been shy, middle-of-the-road Democrats tend to be too laid back to embrace the fight that Democrats hope will wrestle the White House out from under Trump.

As became clear from a fundraiser held for County Executive Tom DeGise last week, there is a serious split on the bubble between older Democrats and younger in Hudson County.


Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise

In a post Booker for Prez world, Tom DeGise is leaning towards supporting Biden; his daughter, Amy – chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization apparently personally leans Warren.

While more progressive parts of the county such as Hoboken and parts of Jersey City will come out in force to support Warren, more traditional Democrats may need a more outspoken Biden to get their blood boiling enough to get them into the voting booth in significant numbers.

And the emerging Ukraine scandal might just provide Biden and his supporters with the incentive to come incensed.

While Hudson County is Democratic country overall, the DeGise family at the edge of a feud makes it clear that Democrats are not all on the same page in regard to what direction they want to see the party take in the future.

The progressive element is very outspoken. But there are other towns in play and these are likely to be more middle-of-the-road such as North Bergen and North Hudson, Bayonne, Secaucus and Kearny that tend to be more blue collar than progressive, and would support a fired up Biden if they can get him stirred.

But it may take something personal to stir up Biden’s blood enough for him to take on the already fired-up Warren – whose rally in Manhattan this week showed she can drag out her supporters at need, and perhaps doesn’t need to do drag them out at all.

Middle-of-the-road candidates like Biden tend to be as quiet as a mouse, even when they shout.

This is the big difference between the middle of the party and Progressive people like Warren and for that matter most of the progressive candidates even further left than she is.

Warren isn’t shy about speaking their mind and isn’t fearful of alienating parts of the party the way people like Biden might be.

Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise
Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise

But politics being organized sport – more interesting than baseball and football – relies on organizing tools such as the HCDO and it will be a challenge to see which direction the HCDO goes when it comes to supporting Biden or Warren. Will the rank and file Democrat follow Amy DeGise and the progressive element or will tried-and-true Tom DeGise steer the party to Biden?

Much of this will depend the other party bosses such as state Senator and Union City Brian Stack, his neighbor, state Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, as well as the mayors of Hoboken, Bayonne, and Jersey City – all of which will have powerful get out the vote efforts in the primary.

Jersey City under Mayor Steven Fulop will likely try to steer in Warren’s direction since Fulop has positioned himself as the leading progressive mayor in the state. But Jersey City unlike Hoboken is hardly made up of all progressive Democrats and Tom DeGise has a huge influence especially if traditional Democrats that have supported him in the past go his way to support Biden.

While U.S. Senator Robert Menendez is still trying to sell the county on Senator Cory Booker, it is unlikely that too many think in terms of electing Booker as the candidate, at least not in Hudson County, not to mention statewide.

A lot depends too on how Booker can sell himself not in Iowa but in Hudson County and perhaps New Jersey. People already know who Booker is and aren’t buying him as a potential presidential candidate. Nor does Booker look to have any traction – at least from a regional tactical standpoint – at becoming a Democratic vice presidential choice, although polls at home show greater support for him in a supporting role.  If Biden becomes the Democratic candidate, Biden will need to reach out to a more progressive candidate perhaps Kamala Harris from California who would bring a huge amount of Hollywood money to a campaign against Trump.

If Warren becomes the Democratic candidate she is hardly going to select a another progressive candidate like Booker for vice president since she will need to find someone that is more middle-of-the-road like Biden in order to reunite both aspects of the Democratic Party in time for the general election.

If Booker campaigns in Hudson County in 2020 it will be to retain his U.S. Senate seat and no amount of arm-twisting by Menendez will change that.

The real battle will be between Biden and Warren, and will reflect the large battle on the national level as to what direction Democrats will want their party to go into the future.

But blue collar Democrats will need a fired up “Fighting Joe,” for Biden to counter the already fired up Warren. Perhaps the emerging Ukrainian scandal a the the potential to make this fight personal enough for him to win the nomination, drawing out the vote in Hudson County as well as elsewhere in the state.

But don’t expect hostility in Hudson County over this choice.

With Tom and Amy DeGise potentially representing the various factions, this is going to be fight of philosophies not fists.

But dynamics have the potential to make the Hudson County race more than just a rubber stamp for Democratic choices and provide voters with a local vision of the national conflict underway, whether they will want to stick with the traditional core values Democrats have largely run on for generations or steer further to the left with a much more progressive agenda.

Much of this is going to be played out here in Hudson County, a generational war and ironically one that will pit father and daughter Tom and Amy DeGise against each other and outline the philosophies of the party in a very personal way.

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