With West New York Mayor Felix Roque out of office, there are no outsiders left in Hudson County, and Democratic County Chairwoman Amy DeGise is taking on the task of playing peacekeeper.
She says she wants to keep different factions within the organization from fighting, and for now, she doesn’t think they are.
“I hope so, and if we’re not, then somebody’s got to speak up and let’s deal with it now,” DeGise said when asked if the county was finally at peace. “Let’s put it all out on the table and continue to work. If anybody’s got a problem, if anybody’s got beef, I want to deal with it now and continue working towards progress.”
Last year’s warette over control of the county chairmanship divided the county for months, and though most members of the team aligned with Union City Mayor and State Sen. Brian Stack quickly made peace with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who is the chairwoman’s father, others took longer to bury the hatchet.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who angered DeGise by siding with Stack and galled Stack for with his inactivity during the county committee fight, was left out in the cold long after Stack and others aligned with him broke bread with the DeGise faction.
Roughly a year later, Fulop’s back in the fold. He helped North Bergen Mayor and State Sen. Nick Sacco score a record win against repeat challenger Larry Wainstein, and he put resources behind Roque’s challengers in West New York.
Still, peace can be fragile, and while the county executive acknowledged that things were calm for the moment, he wasn’t sure whether Hudson would remain conflict-free.
“Not all of us are friends there, but we’ve all agreed that we’re going to work together,” Tom DeGise said. “Governmentally, I haven’t seen any problems. I’ve worked with Open Space, with all 12 of the mayors, and no complaints at all. But politically, could we trust each other again? I think that’s a question you’re going to have to ask every time you see a guy like me, or one of the others, to see if it’s going to last, because I’m not sure.”
A few issues in Hudson remain unresolved, chief among them the political future of Jersey City Democratic Municipal Chairwoman Barbara Stamato.
Stamato, a Fulop ally, broke against the DeGise faction last year, and the mayor gave up county committee seats as part of a deal to reenter the fold.
Amy DeGise praised Stamato last year but stopped short of endorsing her.
She said last week that conversations about Stamato keeping her seat haven’t taken place.
“Amy was tasked with trying to get us all together, and I can understand her sentiments right now of bringing those people there. But they are the same people that were trying to knock her out too, and it wasn’t that long ago,” Tom DeGise said, deferring decisions about Stamato’s future to his daughter.
County-level infighting might take a backseat to regional infighting as a feud over tax incentives meted out by the Economic Development Authority between Gov. Phil Murphy, who has the backing of Hudson Democrats, and South Jersey kingmaker George Norcross intensifies.
On Tuesday, Norcross filed a suit against Murphy and the task force he convened to investigate abuses of the EDA’s awards, and the issue has already raised tensions during an already-fraught budget season.
If the trend holds, both sides will need all the help they can get.
“I don’t have an issue with anybody. I’m looking for peace. I’m looking for the quiet times, because that’s when we can build our community together. The fighting stuff sets us back, and it allows Trenton to run amok, and we’re not going to let that happen anymore,” Amy DeGise said. “North Jersey’s going to start calling the shots, and we’re going to start supporting our governor, who’s a great man.”