HILLSIDE – It’s one of the ironies (or just one more incongruity) of this tax-saddled and politically dysfunctional town – home of the grave of Stephen Crane – that a school stands here bearing the name of Calvin Coolidge, a Republican president of little effect and a notoriously laconic and low drama guy who once declared that “the business of America is business.”
The business of Hillside is clearly not business, but politics.
And outside Coolidge, Dahlia Vertresse walked up and shook some hands, among them one offered by an ally, Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh, and another offered by Hillside Democratic Chairman Anthony Salters.
A labor organizer by trade, Vertresse told InsiderNJ that labor should prove the difference-maker tonight as she looked to upend her rival, attorney Jorge Batista.
It was low-turnout.
But some of the people out there still trembled with past rages, nursed long before the deterioration and finally death of longtime legendary local Chair Charlotte DeFilipo.
“Some people are still out here fighting Charlotte,” Salters told InsiderNJ, evoking the image of the former prizefighter Simon Brown, who got knocked out, and proceeded to throw punches from a prone position on the canvas with his eyes closed.
That was the disjointed quality of the runoff election.
But Vertreese – a mother of three – offered as much grounded down-to-earth presence as the quirkiness of the rest of the town – tugged on by Essex to the north and always a proxy opportunity within the larger scope of Union County – seemed to eternally convey.
She had the backing of the AFL-CIO, labor, Salters, Senator-elect Joe Cryan, and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10).
“I’ll crash when it’s all over,” she said, radiating calm. “Right now I’m running on adrenaline.”