JERSEY CITY – High school teacher Amy DeGise ran up a flight of scuffed stone stairs in her hometown and told the county committee person at the door that she wants to be the next chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO).
Standing in the driveway, she got an earful.
“Stack came in here for a coffee klatch,” the committee member said. “Sandy Cunningham was there. She goes on and on about how Brian reminds her of her husband [the late Mayor Glenn Cunningham]. Come on.. I knew Glenn.
“Glenn is not Brian,” she added.
She didn’t stop or slow down.
“I like Brian,” the committee person added. “But he’s Union City. I want him to stay in North Hudson. Look, he went on and on about how Hudson County used to pick presidents. Please. I want to tell him, just stop cuddling up to guys like [former Republican Governor] Chris Christie.”
She’s all in with DeGise.
“They talk about nepotism,” the committee person adds. “Listen. That’s politics. If I’m there, you don’t think I’m going to put family members in there? Please. Brian wants three titles now – senator, mayor and HCDO chair? Please.”
That reference to past leaders of the Hudson County Democratic Party who picked presidents caught InsiderNJ’s attention. That was Frank “I am the Law” Hague, who convinced Franklin Delano Roosevelt to kick off his 1932 campaign kickoff in Sea Girt. Roosevelt readily kissed the ring. Asked about prez 2020, DeGise said she likes the energy of U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), but also didn’t discount Governor Phil Murphy.
And she nurses a soft spot for U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Door after door.
Neighborhood after neighborhood.
Amy DeGise crossed the threshold into another home.
The committee member brought her in.
The candidate made her pitch.
“The HCDO needs overall reaching out to the committee members,” DeGise said. “How often are you called upon?”
She met a blank look.
“I want to give county committee members a seat at the table and I want to champion local priorities,” she said.
It comes down to Jersey City, DeGise’s hometown, the countywide battleground, home to 362 county committee votes.
DeGise’s rival, state Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33), is zigzagging through the same circuitry, covering and recovering the same territory.
He has Union City and 72 or so votes there nailed down.
Stack’s North Hudson rival, state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32) owns the 78 county committee votes in North Bergen.
West Hudson is with DeGise.
The 102 votes in Bayonne – most of those go to DeGise.
Hoboken leans (heavily) Stack.
Jersey City – on the strength of Stack’s alliance with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop – leans Stack. He does well there – on the order of 200 or so votes – he wins. Too much firepower.
But the DeGise Family has deep roots here. Born and reared in the Heights section, Amy DeGise also has ten years in as a high school teacher. Fulop doesn’t finally have the reach or the interpersonal skills to seal the deal for Stack, they argue.
He may be a detriment.
That’s why solo act Stack has had to dive headlong into Jersey City.
DeGise and their allies love making Fulop the target, poking fun at what they see as his social ineptitude.
“But I do want the HCDO to do a better job in social media,” DeGise maintained. Still, they prioritize face to face communication and a human touch, the hallmarks of the senior DeGise’s leadership style.
And Amy DeGise also intently – and routinely – goes after Stack.
“I don’t think people are responding to some guy in a suit,” she said.
For the candidate, Stack’s ties to Christie – whom DeGise bewails as the worst, most destructive governor in recent memory – indeed run the risk of fatally compromising and embarrassing Hudson County. She also says her rival is too Union City-centric, and doesn’t have the communications skillset to connect meaningfully with the rest of the county.
“Last year in Jersey City we lost $8.4 million in the school funding formula, Union City gained $2 million,” said DeGise. “So if he’s there to rally up Union City public schools why is he not there to rally up Sweeney and the state to support Jersey City public schools, too? I feel his communication outside of [Union City] is very lacking.
“I was in the Heights and areas of his legislative district and people didn’t know that was their state senator They had never seen him around. They didn’t get literature. They didn’t even get a free turkey. Union City can be first when you’re the mayor but if you want to chair the Hudson County Democratic Party I think all the cities need to feel like you’ll have an equal investment in them. And I don’t.”
She hit another door.
Then it was back to the car and on to the next address.
“Christie spent eight years trying to hit the educational institution and he was backed up by Sweeney and he was backed up by Stack,” DeGise said.
A detective with 29 years in with police force, an old friend of DeGise’s father, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, former Assemblyman Sean Connors (D-33) carried the clipboard, drove the car, and backed DeGIse up as she made the rounds.
Connors has had an interesting political career in Hudson County.
He ran against Nick Sacco in 2007 as part of Team Stack. He resurfaced as the DeGise-Sacco-anointed replacement for 2011 redistricting casualty Joan Quigley in 2011. Dumped, he ran for a Heights Council seat in 2013 on Team Fulop and lost. Then he ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat last year.
When County Executive DeGise asked him to help Amy, he didn’t hesitate, he said.
They hit a senior building. Up in the elevator. Then up a flight of stairs.
Every source in the two rival camps sees a close election on June 12th.
“If you need a ride, let us know,” DeGise told a committee member.
“If you need a roast put in the oven, let me know,” she cracked, running down the front steps to find the idling car again in the street with Connors – ready to go – at the wheel.
Someone said something about Stack.
He was simultaneously going door to door too, as it turned out, in Jersey City.