JERSEY CITY – In the end it would have to be about Hudson, the guys born and raised in the trough of its streets and tenements, stepping over the outsider casualties of the last bang up to bask in their own reformed battle lines, this time with U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) wearing the bicorn hat and looking for an Austerlitz-like performance.
Anything but Waterloo.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop was the discarded protagonist from the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO), as state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32) and Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33) made a big show of embracing each other in the center of the big, packed ballroom, a grinning Governor Phil Murphy wrapping his arms around both of them and pulling them close amid popping flashbulbs.
Remember, it was Stack and Fulop on one side of that fight and Sacco and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.
Now, without Fulop in attendance – consigned to the scrap heap of real-time Hudson political history – they all folded into the foot soldier imperial army of Menendez.
“He’d go anywhere for Menendez,” one of Stack’s handlers told InsiderNJ by way of explaining the senator’s presence at a function populated by his least favorite people: other politicians.
Menendez has been that longtime exception.
“Thank you, chair,” Stack said deferentially to the woman who beat him last June, Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise, the master of ceremonies onstage at Liberty House with the New York skyline in the background and Menendez in the wings.
People were jittery in a room bedecked in Menendez – and DeGise 2019 – signs.
They were all (or mostly) there – except Fulop.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis (given the microphone on the heels of his victory this year in a broadened shoulder role to speak “for all the Hudson mayors), Senator Sandy Cunningham (D-31), Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, assorted assembly people (InsiderNJ spotted Nick Chiravallotti and Angela McKnight [pictured, top right]) and former assembly people (like Sean Connors, Carmelo Garcia and Joan Quigley). Others in the room included Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, Hudson Freeholder Jerry Walker, Hudson Sheriff Frank Schillari, Joey Muniz, state Senator Vin Gopal (D-11), Hoboken Councilman Ruben Ramos, Hoboken Councilman Mike DeFusco, and Bayonne diehard Erica Daughtrey from the office of U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8).
Feeling saucy evidently, the campaign of Menendez’s Republican rival, Bob Hugin, crashed the party of sorts when its bus trundled down to the end of the cobblestone road where Liberty House sits near the edge of the river. There were cops and bullhorns and some back and forth, even as some other protesters gave DeGise and the county hell for reinforcing – rather than dismantling – ICE.
Matt Garofalo, co-chair of the Hudson County Young Republicans, said, “Democrats, Republicans, and Independents are tired of excuses. We know what the Justice Department under President Obama knew when they brought charges against Menendez – something is rotten.”
NJ GOP Committeeman Joshua Sotomayor Einstein said “It’s why we reached out to the Hugin campaign – he is a better choice and sent the campaign bus to support us just as he will support all New Jersey residents, not just his friends as Menendez has done. …The voters of New Jersey know they have one good option, to support Senate candidate Bob Hugin so that he can bring honesty and integrity back to NJ and back to the Senate.”
Menendez and those inside the Liberty House had a different take on the situation, seeing President Donald J. Trump as a menace to society and a Hugin victory as little more than Trump empowerment.
“We’ve got make sure he doesn’t destroy the country,” said Sacco, referring to Trump.
But they’ve seen the polls.
They know it’s a close contest (six points, according to an August Quinnipiac Poll), and they know they will require a unified and active Hudson to put up big home county numbers to offset what Hugin gets in the suburbs.
Watch the elder DeGise size it up here:
You can watch the Governor’s full speech here:
The younger DeGise brought each one of them up.
The event finished with Menendez, the distant jagged skyline Manhattan over his shoulders.
He played up the “united Hudson” theme.
Then he went on offense.
“This is an opportunity to get the entire country back,” Menendez said, bemoaning “unbridled power and decisions that affect country.”
He made it about Trump.
“We have a president who seeks to divide us by where we came from, what we look like, who we are and who we love – a president who traffics in fear and seeks to govern in fear,” Menendez said. “He campaigned as a populist but governs as an elitist.”
Menendez said his retired pharmaceutical CEO opponent would be a foot soldier in that army, the Trump army.
The crowd roared.
It was Hudson with its back against the wall, or up against the river in this case, and looking to find a way to make the key pieces of a longstanding at times prickly political friendship count in a tough election, an operation in the end built more than anything on the proximity of the main players in this packed together urban county.
- Amy DeGise
- Angela McKnight
- Bob Hugin
- Bob Menendez
- Brendan Gill
- Brian Stack
- Carmelo Garcia
- Donald Trump
- Frank Schillari
- Hudson County Democrats
- Hudson County Young Republicans
- Jerry Walker
- Jersey City
- Jimmy Davis
- Joan Quigley
- Joey Muniz
- Joshua Sotomayer-Einstein
- Liberty House
- Matt Garafalo
- Mike DeFusco
- Nick Chiaravalloti
- Nick Sacco
- Phil Murphy
- Ravi Bhalla
- Richard Turner
- Ruben Ramos
- Sandra Cunningham
- Sean Connors
- Steve Fulop
- Tom DeGise
- Vin Gopal
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