Winners and Losers in the Hoboken Election


Perhaps one of the most memorable political quotes in American history came when Richard Nixon lost his bid to become governor of California in 1962 when he said, “You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore.”

While the quote turned out to be far from true, Hoboken Mayor Ravi might well be thinking along similar lines with the results of the Hoboken midterm election where tough political opponents overcame his slate of relative newcomers to deny Bhalla much sought-after control of the city council.

The Hoboken midterm council elections proved an old adage about how difficult it is to beat an incumbent as all the incumbents were victorious in the November 5th municipal election the one exception was Phil Cohen who inherited the seat pretty much when Peter Cunningham decided not to run.

Bhalla’s election team admitted after the polls closed on Tuesday that they knew unseating powerful incumbents was an uphill task. But they were not singing the blues since Cohen’s victory gives Bhalla an additional vote on the council, and perhaps more importantly, an extremely articulate voice to help argue for Bhalla’s agenda.

The election of course was a test of Bhalla’s political clout who ultimately was the biggest loser in this election even though his name was not on the ballot.

Although the Bhalla opponents claimed they could work with Bhalla in the future and for the most part have agreed with those council members who are loyal to Bhalla, the fact is that this election guarantees that divisiveness on the council will continue for at least two more years.

But the Cohen was a pick-up vote for Bhalla it was not enough to take control of the council something he needed in order to advance his agenda.

Bhalla supporters who ever were quick to note the political intervention by the Hudson County Democratic Organization which supported several of the candidates – including a direct contribution from Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise – who Bhalla tried to unseat a year ago in a failed political coup that included Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, and the already ousted former West New York Mayor Felix Roque.

Bhalla’s primary nemesis, First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco successfully fended off a challenge by Migdalia Milano by nearly a two to one margin, almost guarantee another DeFusco run for mayor against Bhalla in 2021.

Tiffanie Fisher, the incumbent council member in the second ward, saw a much narrower margin of victory over Nora Martinez DeBenedetto. Fisher, a one-time ally of former Mayor Dawn Zimmer, has been seen as one of the leading proponents of an alterative reformer movement in Hoboken, and a sharp critic of Bhalla.

As with DeFusco, Third Ward Councilman Michael Russo won reelection by a two to one margin over challenger Ronal Bautisa – and was the leading vote-getting in the Hoboken mid-term election. This raises the question as to whether Russo will attempt to run for mayor in two years, despite having a non-aggression pack with Bhalla in this election.

While 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos also showed a two-to-one majority over challenge Lisa Farrell Sprengle, his overall numbers were relatively low, considering the fact that he was also a mayoral candidate two years ago.

Cohen won in the 5th ward over two candidates, Nicola Maganuco and Timothy Crowell, but managed to avoid a runoff election by getting 52 percent of the overall vote.

Fisher ally, Jennifer Giattino squeaked out a victory over two challengers in the Sixth Ward, also avoiding a runoff by getting 52 percent of the vote. She beat Frank Rosner and Cristin Cricco-Powell.

Cricco-Powell was expected to do much better because she came from a prominent old Hoboken political family.

By far Cohen is the star of the midterm elections, someone with a bright political future, and as an ally of Bhalla has the potential to inherit the mantle of reformer established under the Zimmer Administration.

Clearly satisfied with the results, Cohen looked back at a previous election loss when he failed to unseat Anthony Romano as freeholder.

“I worked as hard in this election as I did five years ago when I lost to Anthony Romano,” Cohen said. “But this time I took the election to a new level.”

He said he made a concerted effort to meet people, neighbors, friends and others and seek their trust and their support.

While he said there are a lot of things he would like to accomplish as a councilman, he is most concerned about continuing the Zimmer legacy when it comes to flood control, and upgrading Rebuild by Design, a project Zimmer initiated with federal grants to help protect Hoboken from rising sea levels.

“While we’ve made good progress under Mayor Bhalla and Mayor Zimmer, I think we need to make sure we don’t screw it up and lose the federal grant by not moving ahead with it,” he said.

Hoboken is under a timeline to get it completed by 2020, and Cohen said he will be focusing on making sure this happens.

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