Rumblings of a Sacco Versus Stack Eruption Calm Down in Hudson


They circled each other for two decades, the aging lion and the saber tooth tiger cub, knowing sooner or later one would bury his fangs in the flank of the other. When it finally came time for the face off, the younger cat got the better of the elder, the victory of state Senator Brian P. Stack of Union City at least – cold comfort – sparing state Senator Nick Sacco the Solomon-like choice of having to pick his successor.

Prior to the boss’ fall, Sacco’s confidante Joey Muniz was in the mix for the job, and that made more than a few people uncomfortable, as others liked the idea of bonafide elected officials like Anthony Vainieri (commissioner) or North Bergen Commissioner Julio Marenco becoming the next senator.

The map that retires Sacco into a Stack-dominant district (as a consequence of Stack losing Hoboken and Jersey City) and creates (presumably) state Senator Raj Mukherji of Jersey City in the new 32nd hurts Sacco’s inner circle, but also enables him to escape the agony of anointing one among his followers.

Still, it was precious little consolation.

Sacco was a big deal, and it hurt some of his allies to see him in a position where he had to depend on the largesse of others to secure (in a year and a half) another shot at the mayoralty of North Bergen he now occupies. Placed in a precarious position in the new 33rd, presumably he would work to build support from Stack and others to reup as mayor rather than go to war with Stack.

After a whirlwind first day with Sacco retainers beating the drums, they seemed to have quieted down and resigned themselves to the master going quietly, in exchange for going quietly with dignity, which in part meant support for his retaining local power, or giving it to one of those aforementioned acolytes.

“It would be nice to go out on his terms, but he understands it’s the circle of life and there’s not going to be a war,” said a source intimately familiar with Hudson political developments.

That didn’t stem the tide of internal irritability over the way it happened, with sources insisting on blaming those who backed a Hudson apportionment map that broke Jersey City into three, instead of two, districts, kicking around unkind words for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Muniz in particular. “The other forces [on the redistricting commission, aligned with Stack) seized on that to do what they did [and create a single North Hudson District that includes West New York, North Bergen and Union City and leaving Jersey City two – not three – senators; while also getting Hoboken out of Stack’s hair].”

Stack thrives on ungentrified politics.

To be clear, though Stack and Sacco thrived on a political rivalry, they respected each other, and forged a destiny out of common respect and even adoration for the Hudson political game. At odds in 2007, They avoided each other while respectively slaying each other’s allies. That was the year Stack took on the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) and annihilated Sacco ally Sal Vega in the process, while Sacco toppled the Stack-aligned Sean Connors. On the other side of the election, they took some measure of mutual satisfaction in surviving, while others around them perished. For all the diabolical backroom goings-on during the Chris Christie years (Stack was close to Christie; Sacco wasn’t; Sacco was the HCDO, Stack wasn’t), they even managed to campaign on each other’s behalf, Stack going into North Bergen to help Sacco’s local effort one year, walking around the streets as if he was Vercingetorix the barbarian breaking bread with Caesar and his Roman legions.

They would, of course, fight on opposite sides in one big final war, when Stack challenged the Sacco-backed Amy DeGise to lead the HCDO in 2018, and found himself up against an HCDO animated by the fact that Stack had heartily backed Republican Christie’s 2013 reelection. Sacco the Democrat had endured considerable discomfort when Christie served as U.S. Attorney and governor, but he never went so far as to publicly back him. Stack conversely felt he had to back Christie in part as a weapon to preserve his independence from the HCDO, which the party organization remembered in time to deny him the chairmanship.

Ultimately, Stack’s Republican allies – in working to craft tiebreaker Philip Carchman’s apportionment priorities, – helped Stack on the commission, more than Sacco’s HCDO allies helped him; just as Sacco’s allies helped DeGise defeat the Republican-connected Stack with raw committee numbers, not redistricting cunning.

Too healthy a mutual regard prevented the Sacco-Stack rivalry from erupting into a campaigns and elections head-to-head, where one of the principals, and not the Vegas and Connors of the world, could sustain a loss. They moved around each other, with tom toms from their neighboring armies sounding warnings in the eternal Hudson night. Finally, too much shared history, too many battles already fought, friends and convenient allies lost, and the inevitable procession of time, which makes even lords and lions aware of mortality, their bond strengthened by virtue of a cherished discipline larger than individual ambition, a political brotherhood of elder and younger as strong as a bloodline, made peace seem more likely – even maybe inevitable – than what in the world of Sacco and Stack passed for war: nothing less than two decades of sizing up each other up and circling and mutually respectfully surviving before the single, unsuspecting mortal cut.


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