Vainieri will run for North Bergen commissioner, giving up his seat as county commissioner

Gargiulo retiring after 38 years in office

Hudson County Commission Chair Anthony P. Vainieri, Jr. (Photo: Anthony Vainieri).

Anthony P. Vainieri, Jr. will give up his seat on the Hudson County Board of Commissioners to run for North Bergen commissioner in the May non-partisan election municipal election, setting him on a path to become run for mayor down the road when Nicholas Sacco retires.

Sacco, who formally announced his bid to seek re-election to an 11th term on the township commission today, will run for the first time in nearly four decades without Frank Gargiulo, who is retiring after 38 years as a North Bergen commissioner.

Vainieri and school board member Claudia Rodriguez will join the Sacco slate, along with incumbents Hugo Cabrera and Allen Pascual.   Another commissioner, Julio Marenco, is seeking a seat in the New Jersey State Assembly.

If Rodriguez wins, she will become the first Latina commissioner in North Bergen history.

“I am thrilled to welcome these talented and dedicated individuals to our team. Commissioner Vainieri has done excellent work for North Bergen on the County level, most notably in improving Braddock Park, and Claudia Rodriguez will make history as our first Latina Commissioner,” Sacco stated.  “I look forward to working with both Anthony and Claudia as well as the other commissioners, to keep delivering progress for North Bergen.”

The move means that Vainieri will not seek re-election as county commissioner in the June primary.  A potential candidate to replace him in the Hudson Democratic organization line is Robert Baselice, the executive director of the North Bergen Parking Authority.

Vainieri will remain as the Hudson County Democratic chairman, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, center, with his running mates, left to right: Hugo Cabrera, Claudia Rodriguez, Allen Pascual, and Anthony Vainieri. (Photo: Sacco campaign).

If he wins the election to the township commission, Vainieri would need to resign as a county commissioner before he takes office on July 1.  That would trigger a July special election convention to complete the remaining six months of his current term.  The Democratic primary to fill his seat, a contest that is tantamount to an election, would occur nearly a month earlier.

It’s not immediately clear who will succeed Vainieri as county commission chairman.  One of the board’s senior members, Bill O’Dea, a potential 2025 Jersey City mayoral candidate, could emerge as a candidate.

Gargiulo, 83, was first elected commissioner in 1985, two years before Sacco won a seat in a special election.  Gargiulo was also elected to the State Assembly in 1985 as a Republican on Gov. Tom Kean’s ticket; he defeated Vainieri’s father, incumbent Anthony Vainieri (D-North Bergen), by 5,202 votes.  A one-term assemblyman, he lost re-election in 1986 by 7,792 votes.

Vainieri is the brother of former Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood).

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the residents of North Bergen as Mayor. During my time in office, I have worked tirelessly to improve our community in areas such as education, infrastructure, recreation and public safety, all while keeping property taxes stable to keep our community affordable,” Sacco said.  “I am proud of the progress that we have made together, but even more excited about North Bergen’s future.”

Sacco faces his third challenge from businessman Larry Wainstein.  Sacco defeated Wainstein by a margin of more than 2-1 in 2019 and beat Wainstein in a head-to-had by 32 percentage points and by a vote of 8,246 to 4,246 in 2015.

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David Wildstein: David Wildstein is the Editor in Chief for the New Jersey Globe.