Hudson County politics is at a stand-still as a result of the Coronavirus.
“Who is going to want to go door to door when people don’t want to see you,” said one politician.
With several local seats being challenged in a primary as well as a possibility of New Jersey playing a role in selecting the next Democratic nominee for president, the virus is more than a little plague on politics.
Most people associated with the Hudson County Democratic Organization believe they will likely be backing former Vice President Joseph Biden rather than Bernie Sanders.
But if there is a conflict for the heart and soul of the Democratic vote in New Jersey, Hudson County has to be at the epicenter and it is clear than until this mess with the virus gets cleared up, politics as it once was practiced – pressing the flesh – is temporarily on hold.
“This could be the shortest primary season on record,” said another political observer. “Nobody is going to go to events and meet people if they think they are going to catch something from somebody else.”
While social media is still a viable tool, politicians traditionally make a point of meeting people, especially senior citizens who make up an important voting bloc.
“Senior citizens come out to vote,” another source.
Even collecting vote by mail – which usually involves sending people out to meet with seniors will be hampered by the fear of possible contamination. And unless organizations are planning to dress their workers up in hazmat suits (such as those in the classic Spielberg film, ET), there will be a scramble after restrictions are lifted to reach people – especially in senior centers.
Word from several public safety groups is that Governor Phil Murphy is about to announce scary new numbers of people testing positive, which will make matters worse.
All this, too, is coming in the middle of Census season.
“People aren’t going to want to answer questions from people who show up at their door,” another county employee said. “So, the count is going to be drastically affected. This means districts will be skewed again when they are reformed later.”
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop largely ducked the question about the impact the virus will have on undocumented workers. His public safety director, James Shea, said that the same Sanctuary City policies would be in effect to protect people’s indent. But will saddled with fear of the virus as well as ICE it is hard to imagine a good response.
Will undocumented people seek to be tested for the virus, answer questions from census takers or even go to local hospitals if they feel sick.
Centers for Disease Control say at its worst, the pandemic could infect between 160 to 214 million people in the United States. Some of these worst-case projections claim as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million could die, significantly higher than the highest range of deaths due to flu which is between 40,000 to 80,000 annually.
Jersey City and Hoboken have launched heavy restrictions on local bars to curb the spread of the virus.
“It’s the young people,” said Freeholder Anthony Romano. “They just keep packing into the bars.”
Local business owners along Bergenline Avenue in Union City have expressed serious concerns about the long-range impact of closures. Several local Chinese food establishments have seen a significant drop in business – even home delivery efforts.
CDC’s worse cases claim the situation could go on longer than just a few months – maybe be even years – partly due to the staggered spread of the disease. People will infect other people at different rates in different communities – although most experts seem to agree coronavirus spreads much more quickly than traditional flu.
Politics goes on with out without natural disasters – and may see changes in election law such as the use of the internet in Hoboken in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
While some political figures claim it is wrong to be thinking politically during such an event, the fact is people are facing reelection, and people are talking about who the county should support in the Democrat presidential primary in June.
Romano is one of the local officials facing a primary battle for freeholder in June. He is being challenged by Ron Batista.
“Fortunately, I’ve gotten all my signatures already,” he said. “But I had an event with Councilman Michael Yun at one of the senior centers we had to put off.”
But even traditional fundraisers held in local eateries and bars will have to be put off, forcing many to resort to telephone and email for funding requests.
Political guru Paul Swibinski said nobody is really thinking politics with the epidemic underway.
But there are plenty of people who know politics is a way of life in Hudson County, where fundraising and GOTV are its life blood.
HCDO Chair Amy DeGise said party officials are putting their heads together.
“We are actively trying to find out more information for this,” she said. “Right now, we are waiting on word from the state party on their guidance. We were already coordinating a large vote by mail campaign prior to the virus. We will try to intensify this campaign as a precaution. We will do what we can to accommodate and spread messaging throughout elected and all committee people.”