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If anyone had any doubts about the intention of Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano to run for reelection, his holiday fundraiser on Dec. 2 dispelled all doubt.
It helps if your special guests on County Executive Tom DeGise and Hudson County Democratic Organization Chair Amy DeGise.
The room was full, and the energy was palpable, according to several observers.
Some of other power players in attendance included Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari and Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
Sacco even spoke in support of Anthony and his dedication as a freeholder.
While the event drew more than 150 people at Willie McBrides in Hoboken, Romano said he’s not taking anything for granted.
“I’m running assuming someone is going to run against me,” he said.
You might think Romano will have an easier time this year than he did in 2017 when he ran both for freeholder and mayor of Hoboken, the numbers coming out to the polls in 2020 will be pumped up by a presidential election.
“Hudson County is a blue county in a blue state,” said Tom DeGise. “Many people do not know what freeholders do and so they might come out to vote for or against Donald Trump, they might not vote for all of the seats down on the ballot.”
Depending on U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s efforts to revive his presidential campaign, the ballot will mostly be devoid of heavy weights. The presidential election will be on top, followed by the U.S. Senate, and then freeholders – and in some towns like Jersey City, Hoboken, and Bayonne, board of education elections.
“If Cory doesn’t win the nomination for president, he’ll be on the ballot for U.S. Senate,” DeGise said. “The turn out will be higher because of the presidential election. But it’s hard to predict if there will be a drop off due to voter fatigue.”
With the presidential run local candidates won’t need a get out of vote drive they way they might in another election, but they might have to make certain people actually look for their name on the ballot and cast their vote beyond president.
Romano, one of six candidates in the 2017, was defeated by successful Mayor Ravi Bhalla, and this could be a concern in next June’s primary – if Bhalla decides to back a candidate for freeholder against Romano.
Freeholders have three-year terms and so this election could give Romano opponents an opportunity to get back at him for his mayoral run or even possibly remove him from the freeholder platform that would allow him to run again for mayor in 2021.
Willie McBrides was stuffed with well-wishers, however, suggesting Romano will be more than coal in his Christmas stocking.
Although the HCDO usually doesn’t make endorsements until nearer the primary, the holiday event suggested that Romano will likely remain on the ticket.
Tom DeGise said he could not predict what his daughter would do, he said Romano has his personal support.
“Stick has been my friend consistently over the year, and has been very supportive,” Tom DeGise said, noting that Romano is a force to reckoned with.
“A few years he won reelection off the line,” DeGise said. “He is very popular in Hoboken and in the (Jersey City) Heights where I live.”
Winning without HDCO support is a rare achievement in Hudson County where lack of an HCDO endorsement is generally the kiss of death.
But the HCDO in 2014 was a totally different beast from its current configuration. Reformer sat as mayors in Jersey City and Hoboken, radically changing the landscape. Fulop’s victory in Jersey City had been against many of the HDCO old guard, and Dawn Zimmer in Hoboken had manipulated the system, allowing her to win reelection with less than 50 percent of the vote – despite some HDCO support of candidates against her.
So instead of backing Romano, the HCDO decided to appease Fulop and Zimmer and picked reform candidate, Phil Cohen.
But Romano’s personal popularity and his amazing ability to show up for nearly every public event in his district successfully won the Democrat primary against the HCDO machine – a rare and historic accomplishment.
Despite the fact that the HCDO appears to have become much more progressive under Amy DeGise, Romano still is king of hill when it comes to holding onto his freeholder seat.
But he does expect opposition to come out of Hoboken.
“I’m going to work hard to win this no matter what they do,” he said.