WNY Flashpoint: The HCDO and Menendez Lean Heavily on Sires and ‘the Saratoga’ of Hudson County

WEST NEW YORK – They backed the truck over Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop a week and change ago and today, the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) dragged Mayor Felix Roque around the colosseum once or twice, their gleeful track burn disdain similarly best expressed by not acknowledging the local leader.

It was Roque, of course, who saddled up against West New York overlord U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) when he bucked Amy DeGise for HCDO chair and instead supported state Senator Brian Stack. Ok. That’s what happens in families, at least according to those ruthless organizations that say they’re families. They fight, they break up, they kiss, they make up, just like the Katy Perry song says.

Unless they’re named Fulop and Roque.

Then they just get the Il Duce treatment.

[PLEASE READ ROQUE’S RESPONSE TO THE HQ OPENING HERE]

In the immediate wake of Stack’s loss, the Union City diehard extoled the virtues of DeGise and expressed his full support for incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Fellow resistance member Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla also folded quickly back into the HCDO herd.

HCDO Chair DeGise

But Fulop stayed away from the HCDO gala event on Sept. 6th and this morning Roque was nowhere to be found on Bergenline Avenue in his home town when Democrats formally opened headquarters here in this, the place where North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco once aspired to be mayor.

A history teacher by trade, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, father of HCDO Chair Amy DeGise, likened West New York’s strategic importance to the chairperson’s fight to the Battle of Saratoga, which he descibed as the turning point of the American Revolution. Probably seeing himself more in the role of minuteman than the establishment-protecting DeGise and company, Stack might object to that particular war metaphor, as a New Jerseyan might chafe against Saratoga – and not the Battle of Monmouth – torqueing the war of independence.

But it didn’t matter.

“This country is not at its best when it looks the way it looks today,” said Robert J. Menendez, son of the senator. “This country’s at its best when it looks more like Hudson County.”

And, for today’s purposes, more specifically like West New York, pop. 50K.

What mattered now was the import of this town, overlayered with candidates to supply maximum thrust to Menendez’s statewide candidacy.

The scene.

Hobbled by an indictment, tarnished by a trial that hung a federal jury and prompted a path to political resurrection, Menendez has a financially well-heeled Republican challenger to deal with in November named Bob Hugin. The race is close (at least $15 million pumped in by Hugin against the senator, someone groaned at HQ), and a tracker attached to the GOP out on the sidewalk in front of headquarters gave the challenger’s effort that much more of a real-proximity feel, as Menendez’s son subbed for him at this morning’s HQ opening.

The event contained numerous references to the Congressman’s “big back and broad shoulders,” and what that means for the Senator (watch HCDO Chair DeGise’s plug in the video below).

“He handles the senate and I handle the congress,” Sires told the crowd sprinkled with faces from yesteryear and twinkling with would-be new stars. “We are Hudson County. We are you. I’ve been in this town since I was 11 years old.”

They’ve overpacked and stacked West New York with GOTV opportunity.

Sacco

First, there’s Union City guy Menendez himself on the ballot.

Then there’s local legend Sires, a former mayor.

If that weren’t enough, then there’s Sires’ wife, running for the Board of Education.

Then there’s history-chasing Assemblyman Pedro Mejia – the state’s first Dominican in the Legislature – on the ballot to fill the seat left vacant by former Speaker Vincent Prieto.

It’s all wadded together for optimal explosive effect.

“He’s very popular in West New York, so that helps a great deal,” said Sacco, who was born here, of his friend Sires.

And all done with the obvious omission of Roque, up for reelection next year, another – more vulnerable? – casualty in the HCDO chair’s fight, whose name sparks more facial tics here than does the invocation of President Donald J. Trump.

Present in the smallish space this morning?

Weehawken Mayor Rich Turner, Sires, Robert Menendez, Jr., Sacco, Mejia, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, those WNY commissioners and brand names affiliated with Sires.

“It’s a big state,” said the elder DeGise. “We don’t have Senator Menendez here. It’s a big state, I’m sure he’s working his butt off running from place to place.”

But they had his son, a native Hudson County guy and now an attorney who took the microphone and expressed gratitude to the local crowd.

“This is my home,” said the young Menendez. “This is where my grandparents came. This is where my mom and dad chose to raise me. We are going to win this election in November and we are going to send Albio Sires and Bob Menendez back to Washington, D.C.”

Applause showered the room, where the ebullient elder DeGise with the microphone in his hands delighted in his capacity now as a veteran – “he’s been in office 60 years,” his old pal Turner cracked of him – to be able to give advice. 

It was like family, with a single glaring space in the crunched room that miraculously approximated the size of a single man – who, just happens, like the beloved DeGise, to be up for reelection next year.

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