More than the Mayoralty at Stake in Today’s Hillside Runoff Election



Crushed by zigzagging highways, the place today endured the further compress of politics in a special runoff election.

There were bigger implications here, wider complications.

Jorge Batista and Dahlia Vertreese wanted to be mayor.

But the bigger fight was between Senator-elect Joe Cryan (D-20) and Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) for districtwide dominance.

Holley got to the dance with the backing of retiring state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), and now Cryan wants to squeegee the last vestiges of Lesniak residue out of the 20th even before the retiring brand name actually officially retires.

Cryan hitched up to Vertreese, who has the backing of local Democratic Chairman Anthony Salters and the AFL-CIO. Someone told InsiderNJ earlier today that union Prez Charlie Wowkanech and his trusty right hand, Laurel Brennan, could be seen on the street in the vicinity of Vertreese headquarters.

Then there’s Holley, who’s thrown in with Batista.

If Vertresse iced Batista by evening’s end, Holley could consider himself a step closer to the edge of the plank Cryan wanted him to walk ahead of 2019, with Union County Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh potentially in the wings. If Batista won, Holley would have made a statement of strength in the face of godfather Lesniak’s imminent departure.

InsiderNJ just cranked a left off of Liberty and creaked into the parking lot outside Batista HQ, hearing the booming voice of Pablo Fonseca as a platoon of blue sweat-shirted high school students headed for a designated residential area. Fonseca barked order after order then added, for good measure, “And be polite.”

Batista looked mayoral, smiling and shaking hands with his wife outside headquarters.

“I financed 95% of my campaign,” he told InsiderNJ. “I ran against the machine, so I’ll be free to put Hillside first.”

He had a hearty, likeable style.

The underdog, in gear.

Back later, after conferring with Vertresse…


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