Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop has been noticeably absent from the campaign trail this year, including an event today where most of the state’s urban mayors joined together in a show of force behind U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s re-election campaign.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise says that Fulop has sat out the 2018 campaign, even as New Jersey Democrats are looking to secure the re-election of a U.S. Senator and increase their numbers in the House.
“He didn’t do anything during the campaign. No appearances, nothing,” said DeGise. “He sat it out.”
A super PAC controlled by Fulop, Coalition for Progress, raised $159,667 in 2018, largely under the guise of helping Tom Malinowski and Mikie Sherrill win House seats.
But Fulop’s political action committee contributed just $50,000 to the House Majority PAC this year and is sitting on $3,043,659 cash-on-hand, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
DeGise said Fulop’s absence won’t hurt his standing among Hudson County Democrats.
“They’re mad at him anyway,” DeGise said, Fulop’s unsuccessful bid to throw him off the organization line next year.
That fight led to the election of the county executive’s daughter, Amy DeGise, as Hudson County Democratic chair.
A little more than two years ago, Fulop was the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor before his unexpected exit from the race for reasons that have still not been made completely clear.
Fulop made a mistake not becoming engaged in Menendez’s re-election bid, DeGise says.
“It was a wasted opportunity for Steven to reestablish his credentials,” DeGise said.
DeGise acknowledged that Fulop has had a tough time recently. The mayor’s brother passed away in September at age 43 while on a trip to Vietnam.
Fulop’s three allies in the Hudson County warette with DeGise have now returned to the organization fold. State Sen. Brian Stack, the mayor of Union City, Hoboken mayor Ravi Bhalla and West New York mayor Felix Roque have all been campaigning for Menendez.
“There’s a time of war and a time of peace,” DeGise explained. “You can always go back to fighting later.”
But DeGise says Fulop’s absence won’t really affect Menendez’s plurality in Jersey City.
“It would have helped, but we’ve learned to get along without him,” said DeGise. “All nine Jersey City council people all campaigned for Menendez.”
At least Fulop has remained on the sidelines – DeGise said he has “taken no shots” at Menendez, whose seat the mayor openly mulled running for while Menendez was on trial last year.
“He could have helped, sure. I’m sure it was a conscious decision,” DeGise said. “But who cares? You become irrelevant.”