Elections are upon us in two Northern towns: Hackensack and the City of Passaic, a pair of brutal theaters that feature all the worst (synonymous with best) of New Jersey politics.
They’re billed as “nonpartisan” contests, another word for Democratic Party machine politics in all their glory.
In Hackensack, the team of Mayor John Labrosse has tried to fend off a strong, quasi cerebrus-headed challenge from the Lara Rodriguez Team and the team of Deborah Keeling-Geddis. We’d use their official names -“Lower Taxes Honest Government” versus “Hackensack United for Progress” versus “Hacksensack Strong” – but George Orwell has already spun over too many times in his grave.
Let the poor Brit sleep in peace.
Perhaps no other contest in recent memory has featured as open a war between those usually relegated-behind-the-scenes operatives, who have all but yanked the principals out of the ring to engage in their own no-holds-barred slug-fest. Casseen Gaines manages the challengers, and he pulled double duty early as a human pin cushion when his rival from the Labrosse Team charged that the teacher by trade was more interested in demonizing town hall than fulfilling his duties to Hackensack’s next generation of political leaders. Gaines repeatedly countered that Swibinski – who hails from Secaucus – wants to turn the quaint Bergen County burgh of Hackensack into a gnarly satellite of Hudson County. They flailed away on each other for some period of time until someone – most likely a candidate now operating in the role of campaign adviser – gently reminded the pair that they are in, in fact, the managers and not the candidates.
So the pair resumed throwing punches at one another’s boogeymen instead of each other, as the candidates basically got a free ride this season
Swibinski uncorked his go-to target again as recently as last week when he crystal balled an internal tracking poll to declare victory. He referred to a poll that shows “52% of likely voters supporting the Labrosse Team in the three-way race, with 17% choosing the Hackensack United for Progress that is backed by the Zisa political family machine and 11% supporting Hackensack Strong. Twenty-percent of voters are undecided.”
That’s been Swibinski’s favorite way to frame the opposition when he can’t immediately collar Gaines.
Anyway, it’s refreshing to see candidates who have full autonomy and whose voices rise above the din of politics as usual, even if those voices are channeled through handlers who dare to believe in politics as unusual.
Then there’s Passaic.
Every time InsiderNJ goes there it’s either raining or snowing.
And that’s the good news.
The last mayor went down on corruption charges.
Yes, that’s correct. The last mayor, and the one before that and the one before the one before that and then the one before that – and needless to say the message of all the candidates is that Passaic, G-d dammit, needs a break from the past.
Of course, you’ve seen all the candidates before.
Jose Sandoval has been running for years, and offers the enticing quality of never having won, given the fate of those men who beat him.
Richie Diaz was the police director under the last mayor, Alex Blanco, and claims to be the guy who actually steered the trusting Blanco through that maze of nail salons, empanaderias, and bodegas to get to city hall. So he has the street contacts – built from years of walking the beat as a cop – to catapult himself there, he notes.
The there’s the acting mayor, Hector Lora, former chief of staff to Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36), who has the weight of the organization behind him – the same organization that backed Blanco before Blanco went off the rails.
Anyway, if you’re looking for InsiderNJ tomorrow, Election Day Tuesday, we’ll be frantically driving back and forth between Hackensack and Passaic. All day and all night.
Or you can just come to the website and spare yourself the trouble of a politically motivated fender bender!