WEST NEW YORK – “B” is for “backward.”
That was the street wisdom coming from a young woman waving a campaign sign for the “A” team Tuesday morning on a lively stretch of Hudson Avenue.
Elections in Hudson County just seem different. Supporters assemble just past the 100-foot perimeter surrounding polling places to wave signs and loudly tell all who can hear how to vote. You don’t see that in Mountain Lakes.
The non-partisan municipal race here is a bit more interesting than normal because one of the mayoral candidates is Albio Sires, who gave up a safe seat in Congress to come home and run again for mayor.
Sires, who was mayor previously from 1995 to 2006, heads the “B” team.
The “A” team is headed by mayoral candidate Cosmo Cirillo, who now sits on the city commission.
Officially, voters elect five commissioners and the commissioners then pick the mayor. However, both teams already are committed to picking Sires or Cirillo as mayor if they win.
State and county Democrats would seem to have a lot invested in this race, or rather, a lot invested in Sires.
Gov. Phil Murphy was in town on a rainy morning about 10 days ago to urge a big turnout for Sires. So was Leroy Jones, the chair of the state Democratic party, and local bigwig Brian Stack, the mayor of nearby Union City and a state senator – dual office holding is a Hudson County tradition – to boot. Stack pledged to spend considerable time in the city campaigning for Sires.
Sires voted early, so he eschewed the candidate’s traditional trip to the polls on election day. Stll, he was out and about this morning, joining some of his sign-waving supporters along Hudson Avenue – just across the street from a polling place and elementary school that bears his name.
“That happened a while ago,” Sires said of renaming what had been P.S. No. 4 after him.
As for the task at hand, Sires said, “This is a real election.” The reference was to the enthusiasm on the streets.
A short block away, Cirillo was planning to vote himself.
“Es muy importante,” one of his supporters told a voter in this heavily Latino community.
Cirillo cast his vote in the school gym and said he planned to spend the rest of the day visiting polling places.
There are two reasons to do that. One is to engage your supporters; the second is to make sure there are no problems. As of mid-morning, Cirillo said things were going smoothly. He, too, commented favorably on the enthusiasm of the voters.
Gabe Rodriguez is the outgoing mayor, but he’s not leaving public life. In a shuffling of the chairs, Rodriguez is running for the state Assembly, thereby clearing the way for Sires to run for mayor. And do not forget that Sires’ departure from Congress made it possible for Robert Menendez Jr., the son of the senator, to take the House seat. Organization politics at its best.
Rodriquez, who was outside a polling place of his own on 62nd Street, was confident of a Sires victory.
He also expressed gratitude that the race has not been particularly nasty, at least by Hudson County standards.
But politics still takes a toll.
When Juan Jimenez arrived to vote, Sires crossed the street to greet him. There is history here.
Both were high school basketball standouts in West New York – Sires at Memorial High School; Jimenez at the now-closed St. Joseph’s High School. Both eventually played together at St. Peter’s College and were even roommates for a spell.
In addition to his connection with Sires, Jimenez said he’s known Cirillo since he was a child.
Even when politics is not nasty, the choices can be tough.