A closer-than-expected Democratic primary for Hudson County freeholder has left some local political observers wondering if a progressive strategy to challenge four other incumbents was an overreach that limited their chances to win one seat and break through a county government controlled entirely by the party machine.
In the Jersey City-based 4th district freeholder race, organization candidate Yraida Aponte-Lipski defeated Eleana Little by 710 votes, 4,093 to 3,383.
Hudson Democrats picked Aponte-Lipski to replace Freeholder Joel Torres (D-Jersey City), who did not seek re-election after losing party support for another term.
Little came close after spending just $1,067, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Since Frank Hague’ Hudson County political machine was toppled in 1949 when the mayor’s nephew lost a race for Jersey City mayor to a new political boss, John V. Kenny, Hudson had seen a series of wars, warettes, and skirmishes as new players fight for control.
Little was the only freeholder candidate who was in striking distance and the 2020 primary turned out to be nothing more than a placid blip.
The freeholder who won the highest total number of votes was Fanny Cedeno (D-Union City). Her 8,089 votes, 90%, showed the prowess of Union City Mayor Brian Stack’s political organization. Freeholder Chairman Anthony Vainieri (D-North Bergen) combined the support of North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco with his own local brand to win his primary with 81% of the vote, 5,909 to 1,332.
Incumbents Jerry Walker (D-Jersey City) and Anthony “Stick” Romano (D-Hoboken), won with 78% and 61%, respectively.
None of the other candidates spent much money, but they did take volunteer time away from the 4th district race.
Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) swamped his progressive challenger, Hector Oseguera, by a 69%-29% margin the Hudson County portion of the 8th district.
While Oseguera never had a chance to beat Sires, he likely played a key role in helping Little win votes in her freeholder race.
Had Torres forged an alliance with progressives and sought re-election off-the-line, he might have been able to win.
The flip side of that argument is that the Hudson Democratic organization might have taken Torres more seriously than they did with Little expended more resources than they did with Aponte-Lipski. Little probably turned out to be the better candidate.
The greatest success for Hudson progressives might have been at the delegate level.
Bernie Sanders, who was supposed to lead the progressive slate but ultimately declined to bracket with them, won two district delegate slots from Hudson County – so far, one-third of the total number of delegates he captured in the New Jersey primary.
Sanders qualified by receiving 18% of the vote in the combined 31st and 33rd legislative districts and 17.3% in the combined 32nd and 36th legislative districts. He needed 15% to be viable for delegates.
It’s still not clear which of the Sanders delegate candidates will become delegates, but Little and Roger Quesada, who unsuccessfully challenged Vainieri, could be picked.