NEWARK – When he was an Essex Freeholder, Rolando Bobadilla fervently championed driver’s licenses for undocumented workers, and now, on the other side of getting tossed off the Democratic Party line last year, he formally backed a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate this morning who has a decidedly less than let’s-get-it-done-immediately position on Bobadilla’s legislative passion.
“I believe public safety is the most important thing in government; so many states, like Utah, are able do it do it in a way that ensures that we’re not advancing beyond the goal, which is that we want safe drivers,” Hugin told InsiderNJ, when asked about the seemingly oddball relationship in the brick and stucco backroom of Sabor Latino here in the Ironbound.
“That’s the issue,” he added.
Moments earlier Bobadilla and Hugin had chatted amiably at the long lunch counter up front, right before the former freeholder issued his endorsement.
Then the former freeholder, jettisoned by his party when he attempted to run for reelection last year, went to the microphone, backed Hugin for Senate over U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, and urged others, Republican, Democrat and independent, to do the same.
He acknowledged that he and Hugin don’t agree on everything.
But, “last week I officially changed my affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated,” Bobadilla said. “Politics has denegraded to a point where it’s not about people. It’s party versus party. We’re losng track of what matters. We’re in a circus, and the only act in the ring is a donkey and an elephant. I’m no longer seeing value in the system. I for one value my vote.”
Hugin said Bobadilla – who came to this country in 1980 as a Honduran immigrant – moved him with his testimony, more than any other testimony he’s heard during his campaign to dislodge Menendez.
“I’m not going to speak for a party or the special interests,” said the Republican challenger, who denounced he current immigration crisis as a consequence of political failure.
“We need secure borders and compassionate comprehensive reform,” he added. “The immigration issue has been a political football for far too long. …We may not always agree, but you’ll know where I stand.”
As a freeholder, Bobadilla backed a state senate bill for undocumented worker driver’s licenses now.
Pressed on the issue this morning, Hugin said “drivers licenses are appropriately a local or state issue, but if done appropriately I favor a pathway, yes.”
But how can he get anything accomplished in that vein with a president in the White House from his own party who demonizes immigrants in an effort to galvanize his own nativist base?
“I believe we need to bring people together,” Hugin said. “It is unacceptable to divide people. I’ll stand up to President Trump any time he does something to divide us.”
He reasserted an argument he shares with Bobadilla, namely that Menendez and other Democrats are chained to their party. He slapped at his rival for relying on the funding of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And he upbraided him in general for being a party functionary, harnessed to the demands of a party machine.
“My campaign has been about substance,” Hugin said. “The people of New Jersey deserve better. I was in the Marine Corps, in the business world, biotech, Atlantic Health Systems. I’m a person of substance. Bob Menendez is someone who has been in Washington for 25 years, 16 years with a Democratic president and New Jersey is dead last, receiving the least back from Washington than anywhere in the country.”
Bobadilla was standing next to him as he spoke.