GARFIELD – The town fathers evidently didn’t see symmetry as a virtue.
The way they poured the place, it looks like they hit pause in the middle of an earthquake to get a wave effect, making mismatched angles the priority, and undulating architectural incongruity a premium. That’s why you have a smokestack that looks like it stretches into blue collar heaven but for low scudding clouds that run parallel to corrugated iron factory yard roofs that jar at the doors to hair salons, that give on the backyards of cramped residential units that spill into river beds that tease the beginnings of what looks through rain to be the rough outline of a Rite Aid parking lot.
Grimly trudging figures smudge the scene, and somewhere in the mismatched haze of it all – actually, down by the river – lie abbreviated Italianate grounds, complete with what someone supposedly envisioned as the welcoming cylinder-shaped pine trees out front, the entrance to a place they call the Venetian, longtime political home of Mayor (and state Senator) Nick Sacco.
It’s election season, with a month and change left to go before U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) must face Republican challenger Bob Hugin on Nov. 6th, and a critical part of the incumbent’s victory game plan hinges on kingpins like Sacco donning their war bonnets. North Bergen’s Sacco oversees one of the state’s most muscular Democratic Party machines, and less than a year prior to his own local reelection run he wants to Grand Moff Tarkin it with a fully operational – why not go there – battle station – on behalf of Menendez.
So the call went out to everyone in North Jersey to show up for this prime event from the Creative World of Nick Sacco, an enduringly phlegmatic figure who remains one of Menendez’s favorite go-to guys.
Sacco packed the mirrored and marble columned interior of the Venetian, which resolves in elegant opulence – complete with Bobby Darrin-Sinatra songbook soundtrack – what the town itself apparently can’t.
SUV’s rolled in.
Dumped and kept moving.
U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) – “This is going to be a very tight election. We can’t afford to lose another U.S. Senator.”
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.
You know the names.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.
Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise.
Hudson Sheriff Frank Schillari.
All the local brass out of North Bergen.
Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo.
Essex Freeholder Brendan Gill.
Bergen County Democratic Committee Chairman Lou Stellato.
Emcee Joey Muniz.
After you get through the imperial hall, the main ballroom feels like something aboard the Titanic that pays homage to the Robert Taylor classic Quo Vadis: an ostentatious, pastels-heavy recreation of the drawing room of Nero.
At any moment a Belgian Tiger will roam the carpet.
“We still have the eye of the tiger,” the senator deadpanned, hearkening back to the theme song from his storied 1993 campaign.
In the final scene of this movie, the bad guy would get impaled by one of the chandeliers.
This was it.
This was the scene.
But Sacco played the role of easygoing avuncular boss amid unsteady plot lines.
Assailed by a closer-than-it-should-be election cycle, a spate of stories criticizing them for being forced to break a sweat, and two out of three negative narrative-reinforcing polls this week showing a Menendez dogfight with retired pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin, North Jersey Democrats chose this space to make their show-of-force stand.
Sacco never said much publicly.
He didn’t have to.
Hudson is about organizational politics.
Speeches are meaningless if you have an army that can talk for you, and Sacco – like state Senator Brian P. Stack in the neighboring town of Union City – had one.
10,000 votes strong.
So Menendez, who as part of New Jersey’s statewide political triumvirate, fulfills the function of machine politician, alongside self-funder Phil Murphy and transcendent figure Cory Booker, paid homage to that local version of himself tasked with maintaining the party’s political operation.
All Hail, Sacco.
This was a spruced-up version, too.
Against the backdrop of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh – examined this past week by the FBI amid progressive calls for his head – the presence of Amy DeGise as history-making first elected woman chair of the party seemed like a stroke of genius amid the years-long waddle of institutionally-inflated male flab. Hudson was an old boys’ club peppered with females, but now led by one – just in time to seamlessly jump in front of the #me2 movement.
But emcee Sacco inner circle acolyte Joey Muniz took a half an hour at the microphone to remind the crowd that speeches would be kept short – 30 seconds apiece.
Menendez wasn’t here, incidentally.
He and Booker were in D.C, tending to Kavanaugh.
Gov. Phil Murphy was, however.
He got a big, hearty hand.
“I love North Bergen so much I’m coming back on Sunday,” cried the governor. “I’m here for one guy and one guy only, my friend Nick Sacco. It’s one of my favorite events of the entire year. Thank you for your leadership, your friendship. One last comment –
“Albio Sires is on the ballot next month,” Murphy added amid cheers. “Bob Menendez is on the ballot next month.”
The applause grew to a roar.
“We must reelect Hudson County’s own senator – Bob Menendez,” the governor said. “Bob Menendez is for us, the other guy is against us. Bob Menendez stands up for New Jersey, the other guy stands up for Donald Trump. It’s black and white.”
Sacco punctuated it.
“We have to reelect Bob Menendez,” he said.
Somebody cued “We are the Champions.”
There was a certain symmetry to it all, a certain organization.
- Albio Sires
- Amy DeGise
- Bergen County Democrats
- Bob Hugin
- Bob Menendez
- Brendan Gill
- Brett Kavanaugh
- Brian Stack
- Cory Booker
- Cosmo Cirillo
- Donald Trump
- Essex County Democrats
- Frank Schillari
- Hudson County
- Hudson County Democrats
- Joey Muniz
- Lou Stellato
- Nick Sacco
- North Bergen
- Phil Murphy
- Richard Turner
- The Venetian
- Tom DeGise
- Union City
- West New York
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