They tried to stay together, using the benign human adhesive of Tom DeGise to duct tape the relationship into perpetuity, but a couple of years after state Senators Nick Sacco (D-32) and Brian P. Stack (D-33) appeared together on AstroTurf in a show of unity, they have begun – gently – to peel apart.
It’s once again Sacco (pictured) versus Sacco for control of North Hudson.
It’s not like it once was, where every other week some underling from either organization ended up behind bars or hung up to dry. Now it’s a nonviolent and even friendly chess game, with the mayors of the other towns and their ilk the equivalent of life-sized pawns and rooks in a Garry Kasparov versus Deep Blue-style mind bender.
Deprived of a real contest this year (with the exception, arguably, of Hoboken) the bosses and crumb bums of Hudson in recent days have turned their attention to mull – in parlor room fashion – the 2019 county executive’s race – which will get wrapped by 2018.
In a deck chair brawl, if it comes to that, North Bergen boss Sacco and Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairman Vincent Prieto can likely line up North Bergen, Guttenberg, Secaucus, Harrison, East Newark and West New York for incumbent County Executive DeGise. Stack, if he ultimately chooses to take a crack at the executive’s chair with cemented ally Jersey City Mayor steven Fulop behind the candidacy of Freeholder Bill O’Dea – can bring Jersey City, Union City, and probably Bayonne and Kearny.
No one’s saying this fight is a done deal – but it’s a kick-the-tires conversation right now.
Stack’s unprecedented animated forays into Jersey City and Hoboken – at the sides respectively of Fulop and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer – carry an additional urgency that is the consequence, sources say, of his desire to keep Sacco – and at least one of Sacco’s lieutenants – in check.
Never one to mix easily with other politicians, an out-of-character Stack showed up at Zimmer’s fundraiser tonight, and appeared to show little visible signs of discomfort among the likes of state Senator Bernie Kenny, who emceed the affair, and DeGise, the Hudson County executive. Sources say Stack’s cocktail mixer counter punching to Sacco’s business as usual power flexing comes with an additional snap owing to the presence in the Sacco camp of Joey Muniz.
Muniz speaks for Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and he speaks for Sacco. But multiple sources say that while they love Sacco and Prieto, they feel uncomfortable talking to Muniz. “He’s a bully,” one source confessed to InsiderNJ. “He can’t grab a cup of coffee – it’s always got to be a ‘sit-down’,” another griped.
“Everybody likes Vinny,” the source added. “Everybody wants Vinny to be their neighbor.”
As for Sacco, he’s been around too long to be outright questioned.
But a presence.
In the younger Muniz, multiple Hudson sources sense a power grab at the tail end of Sacco World, and Stack – 20 years Sacco’s junior and alert to a tide in various camps turning against Muniz – is only too happy to blunt the young North Bergen gun.
“Joey exerts a pound of flesh,” said another Hudson source, who nonetheless praised the Sacco minder for at least daring to weather the backlash from people who have grown accustomed to never getting their heads chewed off by the terminally mild-mannered Prieto.
“Vinny is a good guy because Joey does the behind-the-scenes janitorial duty,” another source told InsiderNJ, who described him as a convenient boogeyman.
Muniz allies argue that the operative has worked effectively to keep peace and exert the respect of Prieto and Sacco, neither of whom has gotten his hair mussed as Muniz routinely mans up and makes the uncomfortable phone calls that others resist making. They deny that Muniz ever had an interest in throwing Zimmer out of office, and make the case that Sacco is stronger than ever, and in a good position to make a play for statewide power again if Prieto takes another shot at speaker.
But among the Hudson pooh-bahs and players at Zimmer’s event, Sacco was noticeably absent as the mayor’s rival, Councilman Mike DeFusco, attempts – against the considerable weight of Stack, who ultimately over-arches the 33rd District town – to gain traction toward a challenge of Zimmer, with nearly $90,000 raised in the first fundraising quarter of 2017. One source said the HCDO is split, with some of its members definitely jittery over Muniz’s tough guy influence.
Amid the relative political water-treading of 2017 – again, with the possible exception of Hoboken – looms 2019 and the possibility that DeGise – with teams Stack and Sacco gaming – won’t be able to depend once again on the duel presence of Stack and Sacco at his back.