The quickest snapshot to tell if Hector Oseguera’s primary challenge to Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) is real on Election Day will be to look at Hudson County District 5, which includes Hoboken and part of the downtown Ward D section of Jersey City.
This is arguably the progressive base of New Jersey’s 8th district and is exactly the part of Hudson County where Oseguera would need to score big if there is any reality to his candidacy.
An election conducted almost primarily through vote-by-mail ballots changes the landscapes of past elections. More than anywhere else in New Jersey, the Hudson County Democratic Organizations are a little afraid of VBM ballots.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried Hoboken with 65% of the vote against Bernie Sanders. She took the Ward D section of Jersey City in freeholder district 5 with 58%, three percentage points behind her Ward D total. In the tiny section of Ward E that resides in district 5, Clinton won 61%.
In comparison, Clinton won 72% against Sanders in Union City and West New York and 68% in North Bergen.
All nine Democrats on the Hudson County Board of Freeholders face primary challenges, but the one to watch is in District 5, where progressive Ronald Bautista is challenging incumbent Anthony “Stick” Romano.
It’s not immediately clear what impact, if any, write-in candidate James Sanford will have on the race. Sanford is a former commissioner of the Hoboken Housing Authority.
Romano has had an on-again, off-again relationship with voters in Hoboken, where he spent more than thirty years as a police officer and one term on the school board.
In 2014, Romano ran off-the-line for re-election to the freeholder board after Hudson County Democrats supported Philip Cohen, an ally of then-Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, in the Democratic primary.
Romano beat Cohen by 620 votes, 57%-40%, after taking 60% in Hoboken, 57% in Ward D, and 75% in the three Ward E districts.
But when Romano ran for mayor in 2017, he finished fifth with 18%. Bautista did even worse: he came in sixth with just 1% of the vote.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and the entire nine-member city council – Democrats who agree on practically nothing – have endorsed Sires for re-election. So have Gov. Phil Murphy and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Fulop is backing the entire HCDO organization line and appears on a TV ad with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. The two were fierce rivals two years ago.
Bautista told the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission that he won’t spent more than $5,100 on his campaign to unseat Romano.
Romano reported raising $56,370 and had $13,710 cash-on-hand, according to his 11-Day Pre-Primary report filed with ELEC.