The disrespect at Liberty Prime Steakhouse was palpable, as Mayor Steven Fulop attempted to project a stately bearing through the madness of a tortured Jersey City step child otherwise known as Hoboken, which turned up at Fulop’s fundraiser in the form of Hudson County Freeholder Anthony “Stick” Romano and the chief minder of Councilman Mike DeFusco.
DeFusco’s already in the contest for mayor of Hoboken, and Romano is teetering at the brink of getting in, but isn’t in yet, with those chief functionaries of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) still on the sidelines in the aftermath of Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s announcement yesterday that she intends not to run for reelection.
Amid suggestions of chaos in the reform wing of the Hoboken political establishment as Council President Jen Giattino sniffs out her chances of getting in the race and the allies of Zimmer heir Councilman Ravi Bhalla wring their hands over that possibility, fearing a second so-called reformer candidate in the contest who would vie for Zimmer votes, Romano and DeFusco operative Ray Ferraioli found each other in the steakhouse crowd.
DeFusco wants the votes of those anti-Zimmer people.
So does Romano.
So Ferraioli and Romano had words.
Ferraioli buffaloed the former cop, and Romano got up in Ferraioli’s face, nose to nose, the hair going back on the neck of each and nostrils flaring, sources said.
Ferraioli told Romano that at least DeFusco ran against Zimmer.
The freeholder didn’t have the guts, he said – or words to that effect.
Romano hated that.
The allies of the Hoboken councilman say Stick, as he’s known, is not a serious candidate, and if he were serious the HCDO would have already issued one of its press releases embracing his candidacy.
DeFusco, already in, wants Romano out, and Ferraioli told him as much to his face.
The encounter occurred on the same day that Romano people had talks with 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo, darling of the born and raised club, who evidently presented a long list of demands he wants met in exchange for staying out of the mayoral contest. All the while, Romano’s guys are keeping their eyes on the drama in reformer world, as they – and DeFusco – try to coax Giattino in to deflate Bhalla and divide and conquer Zimmer’s crunchy granola constituency.
But Stick shouldn’t run, that much Ferraioli figured he needed to tell the guy up close and personal, and Romano didn’t appreciate it, as other men present near the scene rushed in and separated the pair of rivals and steered them away from each other.
As that went down, sources say part of what has caused the delayed reaction in Romano world (many believed he would jump into the race today, a day after Bhalla) is that the HCDO has decided on a holding pattern. They don’t want to make a move and risk infuriating state Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33), who oversees Hoboken. Zimmer’s sudden exit irritated Stack, who had backed her and worked for her. Now the power broker is waiting to see who gets in, and who gets out, before he executes. Worried about a war with Stack, the HCDO will wait until he acts.
“This is about respect,” a source in HCDO world told InsiderNJ.
In the meantime, it’s about chaos – at least as far as Romano and Ferraioli were concerned tonight at that steakhouse in Jersey City, with Hoboken just on the other side of the highway.