Stack Outmaneuvering Sacco Stuns, Enrages Hudson Democratic Establishment

Stack and Sacco

Suddenly the thought of a New Jersey political structure without state Senator Nick Sacco of Hudson County hurled itself against the wall of the establishment with considerable force.

It wasn’t too long ago (2013) that Sacco – on a deal he cut with South Jersey – made his slate mate Vinny Prieto – the speaker.

“I need a Sacco,” another senator, not a Hudson resident – puttering around the chamber – said out loud, trying to communicate the value of having a boss managing one’s political career.

Sacco is that guy, that boss.

Once.

Now, he was the 2021(2) version of state Senator John Girgenti (D-35).

A redistricting casualty.

“This is embarrassing,” seethed a Hudson source, as he glanced at the Tom DeGise letter demanding a delay in the redistricting vote, set for 2 p.m. “Humiliating and embarrassing.”

It made Hudson leadership, and specifically the once mighty Sacco – look weak.

Sacco had a pick on the redistricting commission – Cosmo Cirillo – and his key inner circle ally, Joey Muniz, running radar.

Sources from within the Sacco mothership quickly began pointing fingers at them.

They also, however, grimly acknowledged the deft touch of state Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33) in outworking Sacco’s operatives behind the scenes.

Stack has close ties to former state Senator (and sitting Port Authority Chairman) Kevin O’Toole, whose chief ally, fellow Republican Al Barlas, occupied the co-chairmanship of the apportionment commission. Stack is also close to Middlesex County’s Gary Taffet, who also occupies a seat on the commission. Unconventional ties maybe, but ties nonetheless; and the kind of improvisation Stack – denied the chairmanship of the Hudson County Democratic Organization a couple of years ago – implemented as a means of staying ahead of the lumbering Sacco-DeGise organization he had once hoped to lead and reform.

“Hudson looks awful right now,” a Hudson source, who sounded like he was in the fetal position on the other end of the telephone, groaned.

Progressives hailed the creation of another Jersey City-based state senate seat and the potential to make it a Unity map-friendly senator, in the name of wrenching state political power out of the hands of decaying old white guys.

That was one way of looking at it.

But another way of seeing it, a source insisted, just months removed from Governor Phil Murphy’s squeak-out victory over Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli, was that the likely sacrificing of Sacco meant the vaporization of 10,000 bankable Democratic votes in a statewide contest.

“How do you put two guys who get you 20,000 votes against each other?” another source raged.

The day’s developing events unleashed tirade after behind the scenes tirade about the condition of the party in Hudson.

The organization allowed the flushing out of office of a talent like Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), a source fretted out loud, in order to appease Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, because Davis wanted to be like Sacco. “Now Davis is in the fight of his life and Sacco’s going to be gone,” the source raged. “What the hell is going on around here?”

The fight between Stack and DeGise (backed by Sacco) didn’t end when DeGise’s daughter, HCDO Chair Amy DeGise, beat Stack. Rather, the underground rivalries intensified, or at the very least maintained the structure as it existed, delayed a wider transformation, and deepened a sense of self-preservation – with Stack ultimately finding other means to survive, knowing that his loss of the chairmanship strengthened at least one dimension of Sacco’s game.

“Nick, with the support of the HCDO, was trying to control the process through Joey and Cosmo,” the source repeated, almost in a haze of disbelief.

That senator – from another place, not Hudson County – some time ago in the halls of the Statehouse wringing hands over not having power player Sacco in his corner could likely not have foreseen a moment like this, where the scraps of bosses from both parties, frayed by their own losses, pasted together in unconventional fashion on behalf of Stack, supposedly the GOTV king but not a finesse backroom player, got the better of a boss who infrequently failed to have the upper-hand when it came to statewide politics, and never in Hudson County – until, apparently, now.

 

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