Hudson County Democratic leaders will not stand in the way of Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis’ decision to dump Assembly Majority Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) from the organization line, the New Jersey Globe has learned after more than a dozen interviews with individuals involved in local and county politics.
Davis informed Chiaravalloti of his decision on Thursday but did not give him a reason.
Over the last few days, Chiaravalloti has furiously sought to save himself. Davis fielded calls from hugely influential Democratic officials, including U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Gov. Phil Murphy, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen), Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, and others urging him to let Chiaravalloti remain.
Democrats say that Davis has rejected the pleas to salvage Chiaravalloti’s place on the ticket, invoking a long-standing tradition that the mayor of Bayonne gets to pick one of the 31st district candidates.
Davis has steadfastly refused to disclose why he’s taken aim at Chiaravalloti and refused to say who he intended to support for the seat, even to some of the county’s most influential party leaders.
Some Democrats think that Davis has become increasingly resentful of Chiaravalloti’s influence in Bayonne, including sturdier relationships with some city council members, increasing control over the local school board, and a burgeoning portfolio of private sector clients that do business with the city.
Still, the county’s most powerful Democrats are prepared to back up Davis’ right to make the call, even if they don’t agree with it.
Menendez, a close Davis ally, might be able to save Chiaravalloti, his former district director, if he pushed the Bayonne mayor hard enough.
But that puts the state’s senior U.S. Senator in a tough spot since he was the original architect of the accord that allowed Hudson mayors to determine their own pieces of the pie when he served as Democratic county chairman in the early 2000s.
Democratic leaders are expected to continue to convince Davis to keep Chiaravalloti until candidates are filed in April.
In calls with Democratic leaders, Davis told the party that they would like his choice for the Assembly and hinted that the candidate might be an outsider.
That hasn’t stopped Democrats from speculating about a replacement from the inside, including: Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) New Jersey State Council Chairman Raymond Greaves; Neil Carroll III, a 32-year-old city councilman and former Chiaravalloti aide; Hudson County Commissioner Ken Kopacz; and Hudson County political insider John Minella.
Davis’s decision to withhold party support for Chiaravalloti comes one year before his own re-election campaign, so the move comes with some risk.
Chiaravalloti is not expected to challenge Davis – he would have to give up his $180,000-a-year job at Hudson County Community College and his part-time business development consulting business to be the city’s full-time mayor – but he could wind up backing another candidate.
Few believe Chiaravalloti could win re-election off the line in the Bayonne/Jersey City legislative district.
He ran off the line in 2007 and lost by 2,921 votes.
Chiaravalloti finally got his Assembly seat in 2015, one year after Davis unseated Mayor Mark Smith in a campaign that the Chiaravalloti played an outsized role in.
Davis dropped the incumbent, Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Bayonne) and put Chiaravalloti on the ticket.
O’Donnell ran against Davis in 2018 but lost. Had he won, Chiaravalloti would have been toast.