Here are five places where Democratic and Republican county committee fights in the June 5 primary election are worth watching:
The Roseland war will determine who controls the local Democratic party in a small town of about 5,000 people where Republicans control local government. It’s also the hometown of former Gov. Richard Codey and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, two powerful New Jersey politicians who absolutely despise each other. Control of the county committee is a trophy of little real value, other that a demonstration of who has the greatest testicular girth.
DiVincenzo’s candidates are running on Line A, on the Essex County organization line. Codey filed nine candidates for twelve seats, which means he needs to take seven of the nine seats to take out Roseland Democratic Municipal Chairman Julius “Jay” Coltre, a DiVincenzo loyalist. DiVincenzo needs to win just three of the nine contested seats, since Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones would be the tie-breaker.
The Line A team has mounted a full-fledged campaign, with glossy direct mailers tying the county committee ticket to Sen. Bob Menendez, congressional candidate Mikie Sherrill, popular Essex County Executive Armando Fontoura, and the slate of mayoral and council candidates who are running unopposed. Most importantly, they have brought in Phil Alagia, DiVincenzo’s chief of staff and one of the best political operatives in the state, to run the campaign.
The race to watch is in Roseland’s first district, where Kevin Codey, son of the former governor, is running off the line against John McGovern. McGovern spent five years as Codey’s legislative aide before a failed restaurant venture turned the onetime friends into bitter enemies.
WEST NEW YORK
The fight for 58 county committee seats in West New York is an early skirmish in the Hudson County Democratic warette. The contest pits an off-the-line slate backed by Mayor Felix Roque against the Hudson County Democratic organization candidates supported by Rep. Albio Sires and Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo. Roque has endorsed Union City mayor Brian Stack for county chairman, and sources say Stack needs to win about 20 seats out of West New York.
For Roque, the stakes are a little higher. Cirillo, is former ally, is preparing to head his own ticket in the May 2019 municipal election and wants to take on Roque. Roque can survive losing control of the local Democratic party, but if he gets wiped out, he’ll face a fight to change the perception that Cirillo can beat him.
Sires, a former mayor, is protecting his hometown political turf – the key to holding his congressional seat in 2020, maybe in a primary against Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop. Sires is backing Cirillo and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.
Dover is one of the few Democratic strongholds in Morris County, but the local Democratic organization faces a fight over county committee seats in the June primary election.
The challenge to Democratic Municipal Chairman James Visioli is a precursor to a move to oust longtime Mayor James Dodd when he seeks re-election in 2019. Visioli is an alderman and a Dodd ally. Dodd has been helpful to Republicans in the past, like Gov. Chris Christie, State Sen. Tony Bucco, and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco.
Morris County Democratic Chairman Chip Robinson has thrown most of the Dodd/Visioli allied Democrats off the organization column and replaced them with a group of largely Hispanic Democrats who reflect the diversity of the town. That means the insurgents are the ones organizational support. Dodd and Visioli do not have the backing of the Morris County Democrats. Additionally, three of the four Aldermen running for re-election do not have party support.
Dover has 24 county committee seats. The Dodd/Visioli slate needs to win thirteen, since Robinson would break a tie.
Harrison was the poster child of political stability for decades: Frank Rodgers was mayor for 48 years (1946-1995), followed Raymond McDonough, who served until his death of a heart attack in early 2014. Now McDonough’s successor, James Fife, faces a challenge from Councilman Anselmo Millan, who wants to become the town’s first Hispanic mayor. Millan is running a full slate of council and county committee candidates – all off the line.
Fife supports Amy DeGise for Hudson County Democratic Chair and the assumption is that Millan would support Stack. Millan has filed county committee candidates in some districts, which means Stack could potentially grab a few votes out of Harrison is a few of the insurgents are successful.
There are four votes up for grabs that could impact a contested race for Morris County Republican Chairman. The Rockaway GOP county committee race went to court in April after one of the candidates, Vincent La Iacona III, alleged that County Clerk Ann Grossi improperly instructed municipal clerks as to the legal number of signatures needed to get on the ballot. A Superior Court Judge ruled that Grossi did not understand election law but allowed seven of the eight challenged candidates to remain on the ballot. The contest could swing control of the local Republican party away from Rockaway councilwoman Kathy Quinn, which could be a harbinger of Mayor Michael Dachisen’s chances to win renomination in 2019.