An InsiderNJ Guide to Tuesday’s May 8th Elections

Paterson
Campaigns

We will see you in the field next Tuesday as InsiderNJ reporters cover all of the key races in this critical May 8th season for local campaigns and elections in New Jersey.

Here’s a thumbnail:

Baraka

Newark

No one you talk to believes Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins will beat incumbent Mayor Ras Baraka, who

Chaneyfield Jenkins

wants a second term. The allies of Chaneyfield Jenkins hoped the indictment of Baraka ally Kiburi Tucker would lead to the collapse of City Hall in time for the May 8th election, and it didn’t happen.  Already in charge of the South and with strong presence in the West, East and Central, Baraka’s significant alliance with the North Ward and Councilman Anibal Ramos, operations manager of a county-connected and political base, simply solidifies him citywide.

But there are other contests in the city.

Sources say West Ward incumbent Joseph A. McCallum has a fight on his hands in this election cycle, confirmed by state Senator Ronald L. Rice’s comments here.

Then there’s the East Ward, where 20-year incumbent Augie Amador wants to avoid a runoff with

Amador

former Police Director Anthony Campos. Amador’s old Portuguese base has dwindled in recent years, and now – in a field that includes Crystal Fonseca, Jonathan Seabra and Tanisha Garner – he’s trying to avoid the political fate of Ironbound predecessor Hank Martinez, who couldn’t get over the 20-year mark.

Don’t forget the presence of master campaigns craftsman Pablo Fonseca (former chief of staff to Cory Booker, when Booker was mayor of Newark) on the Fonseca Team. Pablo left the Alex Cruz Campaign in Paterson last month and isn’t as engaged anymore in Belleville as he focuses all his attention on trying to defy the odds and get his daughter past would-be alpha males Amador and Campos.

Keen on landing a shot on Fonseca (who’s with Chaneyfield Jenkins) and causing an auditorium of political insiders to perk up and salivate, Baraka in his state of the city address pointedly threw a jab at the operative without mentioning him by name.

“The street cleaning contract was held by a vendor that wielded undue influence on our city too long and streets that were never really cleaned anyway,” Baraka said, poking at a Fonseca connection. “We took the initiative, the risk, and brought it in house, leased our own trucks and put our destiny in our own hands. What you never read in the newspapers or saw on TV is that the person who influenced the cleaning contract and profited from it, is the same person who influenced the health insurance contract, and is the same person who influenced the street sweeping contract. I am trying to redistribute some wealth in this city and not put it all in the hands of a few power brokers.”

In the East Ward as the city hurtles toward Election Day, Fonseca shrugged off the remark.

“For me, it’s just about providing the best services possible to the people of the City of Newark,” he said.

Paterson

Paterson

Mendez

Home to 72 dialects (we reported 52 before, but it’s 72), Silk City  is arguably the state's most fascinating political organism, and this mayoral race in particular has considerable import. At the heart of it, At-Large Councilman Alex Mendez – a Dominican American – rides large-growth numbers in his community, and can make a strong case for why he’s the frontrunner, bolstered by the fact that Paterson – though a true melting pot – is a majority Latino city. But Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh (a $171K campaign with $67K COH in the middle of April, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission) is running a classic campaign built on alliances – alliances that have to perform if he is to win. He starts with a strong home base in the largely Arab south ward (aided by Al Abdel-aziz), enhanced by African American establishment allies (including pastors and Assemblywoman

Abdel-Aziz, left, and mayoral candidate Sayegh.

Shavonda Sumter and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly), labor, and the Passaic County Democratic Party. Sayegh has the task of trying to glue together every little group(Chileans, for example), moderately -sized groups (Peruvians and Colombians) and win significant support among African American and Bengalis. The Bengali community could decide the election, in fact, because Mendez’s campaign manager, Henry Sosa, has experience organizing that community, while Sayegh, former Deputy Mayor Pedro Rodriguez and other candidates can also lay loyal Bengali Ward 2 claims. Where Bengalis go eventually in the main could swing a close election. If Blacks go to Ward 1 Councilman Mike Jackson and/or Ward 3 Councilman Bill McKoy, and deny Sayegh deeper support, Mendez – a miniaturized 2016 Donald Trump in a way because he arguably commands a nativist, galvanized base – could win.

The ubiquitous hard-hitting Rahman, left, with Mendez, attends another feel-good rally – and – in the best 4th Estate fashion – rains on the parade.

Other factors in this contest include The Paterson Times reporting of Jay Rahman, who has identified weaknesses in Mendez’s professional record (and the candidate’s failure to comply with ELEC by making donations public) and hammered them. Will it be enough to deter Mendez voters, or will they coalesce around him with a fortress mentality?

Here’s one more interesting factor.

Sayegh’s campaign team includes prime movers behind Governor Phil Murphy‘s successful 2017 guv bid. The candidate, moreover, has burnished his connection to the governor as a selling point to his candidacy (relationship is his word of choice). Will it help, or will McKoy’s enduring criticism of “relationships” as another word for inappropriate power coziness, prevail? Sayegh makes the point that McKoy had a relationship in politics – with jailed former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, whom the Ward 6 Councilman fought. Will Sayegh get tangled up with McKoy enough to spur Mendez, or will Mendez and Rodriguez find themselves scrambled and ignite Sayegh? Sources insist McKoy damaged himself with a misconstrued statement made on the rail about Martin Luther King, Jr. Rodriguez, for his part, is running a real campaign, but lacks Mendez’s connective spark.

Then there are those 3K vote by mail ballots circulating. That’s Sosa’s specialty.

This is New Jersey’s May 8th race to watch.

UPDATE: For 11-Day Pre-election fundraising, please go here.

The portrait of Larry HIlton in Settimo.

Trenton

First some history.

City overlord Mayor Doug Palmer retired in 2010, and tried to assist in staving off nemesis Tony Mack.

Worthy

Mack won, then cracked up. Carted off to prison, he left open the 2014 win of Palmer ally Eric Jackson, a former Department of Public Works Director. Jackson didn’t take to the job. Short temper. Some health issues. Plus the city, well, it has it’s challenges. So he opted out of running for a second term this year. The establishment that backed him redirected itself and bifurcated between two candidates: County Deputy Clerk Walker Worthy, Jr. (who has Palmer and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes), and Councilman Duncan Harrison, Jr. (who enjoys the support of Bill Watson, the politically-charged brother of U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman). Worthy has collected all the endorsements you might associate with establishment campaigns (and nearly everything Jackson had before him). That coupled with those City Hall denizens looking to maintain their positions make the deputy clerk a serious political threat in any field. But the presence of

Gusciora

multiple African American candidates – and possibly establishment fatigue – open other possibilities. Retired Pentagon security guard Paul Perez has demonstrated (based on his 2014 runoff lose to Jackson) that he can win the city’s Latino vote, a dynamic made more potent by the presence in the contest of five Black contenders (Worthy, Harrison, Annette Horton-Lartigue, Darren Green, Alex Bethea). One can always find a way to give someone an edge. Horton-Lartigue is the only woman in the contest, and some good weather, with the recent example of Verlina Reynolds Jackson upsetting the male-dominated establishment to snag an assembly seat. But the former councilwoman (Horton-Lartigue) did little in her 2010 mayoral campaign to demonstrate citywide power. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) has some potential here. Good name ID based on the office he holds, and good fundraising. He – like Perez – also could find himself the beneficiary of a divided African American field. Will he have what it takes on Election Day to match Worthy’s GOTV efforts?

That’s the critical question right now.

For the LATEST fundraising totals, please go here.

Davis

Bayonne

The typical Bayonne campaign consists of two men attaching themselves to each other with chains or belts, and then attempting to club each other into submission (or worse) with rocks.

Honestly, this one’s been tamer than most  (and right when you make that observation, a corpse surfaces in the river).

But part of it has to do with the immense confidence of the incumbent Mayor Jimmy Davis ($307K cash receipts, according to ELEC, $47K COH in the middle of April) Team, and the x’s and o’s know-how of Business Administrator turned Campaign Manager Joe DeMarco. They’re riding development projects that make the maritime city look good. Some of it, too, has to do with the existing Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) – and in particular the allies of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) – trying to hold onto the Davis power structure, and exact payback on the vestiges of former Mayor Mark Smith.

Then there’s Davis himself, whose lovable, almost-Alfalfa like qualities in the words of locals who know him, complete the counter intuitive portrait of the tough guy city cop who four years ago knocked off tough guy city cop Smith.

Former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31), a retired firefighter who used to run his own tavern in

Team O’Donnell

town, who comes from a proud line of Bayonne public servants, is giving Davis a challenge in difficult weather. The calculation among some O’Donnell allies – including those who weren’t turned out of City Hall when Davis ejected Smith and O’Donnell, and here, if you’re on the losing team, you find yourself picking up trash in full view of those legs-up-on-their-desks victors) – was that Davis’ text messages to a former employee would overtake the political season (in an anti-Trump-misogyny environment) and engulf the mayor. It hasn’t appeared to have happened, even as O’Donnell – running on a “Character and Commitment” message – continues to make the case amid driving hammers and development on vacant lots – about how tax abatements will boomerang on Bayonne.

O’Donnell ($166K raised, $53K COH) has a cash advantage for the home stretch and some solid labor backing for these closing days – that labor support is big late, a counterattack to the county-connected bodies of the HCDO, and one doesn’t truly know how some of the undercurrent will impact come next Tuesday, but more than just shovels in the ground optics have Davis and Company primed to settle for another four years.

This was a good late look from Davis, apparently on the strength of Menendez’s pull with Governor Murphy.

Key question: Will the presence in the race of third candidate Dr. Mitchell Brown force a runoff between Davis and O’Donnell?

Finally, Bayonne can be read as a proxy war for the Hudson chairmanship, which in turn relates to guv 2021.

Bayonne.

Sophisticated primitivism.

UPDATE: For the latest fundraising totals, please go here.

Schneider

Long Branch

The campaign of Councilman John Pallone says they’re catching 28-year incumbent Mayor Adam Schneider at exactly the right time. Schneider backed Governor Chris Christie in 2013 and championed as his signature accomplishment the Pier Village development project owned by President Donald J. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. So Pallone – who has stayed away from the media and participate in

Grant

just a single cookie cutter forum – and his cronies are letting rip mail piece after mail piece highlighting those connections, in hopes of getting disgruntled Dems out of their comfy chairs and to the polls. The same operating engineers-connected PAC that went after (and ultimately helped defeat) state Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11) is now directing local TV fire at Schneider.

Schneider concedes that he needs to do more to bring along lower Broadway, which clings dismally to life inland from where Pier Village luxuriates on the waterfront.

But it may be too late, as Pallone – outspending Schneider $32K to $22K with less than a week to go – signs blanket the seaside Monmouth County city.

Pallone

Will voters remember the good that Schneider has done and appreciate his take-charge executive skills or reward the younger brother of progressive U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) on the strength of his promise to care for that neglected side of town during the Pier Village boom era?

Don’t forget, too, the presence of School Board Member Avery Grant, a Vietnam combat veteran and retired Lieutenant Colonel, who four years ago almost defeated Schneider.

With Pallone and Grant both running on the anti-Pier

A Pallone Street piece hitting Schneider.

Village message and Grant no slouch based on record and past performance, Schneider – in a winner-take-all Tuesday election, can hold onto his core supporters and city hall connective tissue to win an eighth term. Pallone’s poll non-factors Grant, but local voters say otherwise, and argue national environment and Pier Village fatigue. They’re looking to motivate new voters to go to the polls to express outrage. Grant, moreover, has not projected and they’ve branded Schneider before he could react. But 28 years is a long time to build a base. Will they stick with Schneider and enjoy a sleepy Election Day?

Belleville

Belleville

Another May 8th Election without a runoff features incumbent Mayor Ray Kimble trying to stave off former Councilman Michael Melham and School Board Trustee Liza Lopez. Kimble ($66,142 raised, $43,408 cash on hand in the middle of April) has the machine advantages of incumbency. But he’s in his eighties now and the North-of-Newark town’s main drag looks less than robust. The Mayor also has the encumbrance of Councilman Kevin Kennedy on his ticket, who’s prone to Facebook rants about Nancy Pelosi, and lacks some of the punch of past GOTV efforts citywide. Is he assisted by the fact that he has two challengers? Maybe. Others say Lopez (whose ELEC filings aren’t up to date) can sneak in against two white males by galvanizing the town’s Latino voters. Businessman Melham has a run a real contest, and poured $24K ($4K COH last month) into a change message, but with a strangled local project in his past, retired cop Kimble and company are trying to make the counter point that he’s an opportunist. A real race.

Newton

Please go here.

Ridgewood

Stay tuned…

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One response to “An InsiderNJ Guide to Tuesday’s May 8th Elections”

  1. with how much you fellas talk about campos you would think you were on his payroll, campos cannot be allowed in, hes greedy he wants more money augusto is the right choice theres pictures of campos in police uniform touching hookers sexually all over facebook and i see not one report on this. im sticking with augusto because i’d never let a woman in office. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a4c665b1cc8b045505a6440284acce064c5194cd088e2c6809450e24e43f2876.jpg

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