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Hudson County by the numbers

Union City, North Bergen have mammoth infuence

By David Wildstein, March 09 2018 12:33 pm

Almost four out of every ten (39%) of all Hudson County Democrats live in Jersey City.  Union City and North Bergen each have 11% of the total Democratic party registration.  They are followed by Bayonne (10%), Hoboken (8%), West New York (7%), and Kearny (5%).  The other five towns – Secaucus, Weehawken, Harrison, Guttenberg, and East Newark — make up the final 9%.

Jersey City has about 50,000 more Democrats than Union City or North Bergen, but the local organizations run by Mayors/State Senators Brian Stack (Union City) and Nicholas Sacco (North Bergen) have an outsized influence in Hudson County elections because of their ability to produce votes.

Take the 2017 Democratic primary for governor.  All twelve mayors endorsed Phil Murphy, but not all delivered the same kind of turnout and pluralities.  Union City and North Bergen are still machine towns, while voters in Jersey City and Hoboken are more independent.

* Jersey City had a 28% turnout and Murphy received 9,802 votes (54%).
* Union City had a 53% turnout and Murphy received 8.312 votes (89%).
* North Bergen had a 33% turnout and Murphy received 5,030 votes (82%).

While Jersey City has 50,949 more Democrats than Union City, the turnout was just 9,167 higher.  Murphy received only 1,490 votes more in Jersey City than Union City. While Union City represents just 11% of the total Democratic registration in Hudson County, it produced 20% of the total votes cast in the 2017 primary.

North Bergen has roughly the same number of Democrats as Union City, but turnout was 4,060 less.  While Sacco delivered a huge percentage to Murphy, the turnout model was different; Murphy won 3,143 less votes in North Bergen than he did in Union City.

Hoboken and Bayonne remain factionalized, as evidenced by competitive (and technically non-partisan) mayoral races in 2017 and 2018.  Hoboken had a 33% turnout last June – slightly above the county average – but Murphy won 55% there, ten points below his countywide percentage.

In Bayonne, Murphy received 52% there, and turnout was at 25% — five points below the county turnout average.  That wouldn’t have happened in the days of Dennis Collins.

Weehawken, run for the last 28 years by the venerable Mayor Richard Turner, turned out 36% of their primary vote and delivered a 70% margin to Murphy – his third best percentage in the county.  Turner is in a bunker these days – the lone holdout of the twelve Hudson mayors in the current county executive warette.

Murphy won 63% in West New York, but turnout was an anemic 19%.  Kearny was the only town Murphy failed to hit the 50% mark; his 48% came with a feeble 17% turnout.  Harrison, turned out 22% of their Democrats and have Murphy 58%.  Turnout in Guttenberg was 27% and Murphy finished with 59%.

East Newark is tiny and irrelevant – just 642 registered Democrat and an 18% turnout.  If Mayor Joseph Smith was able to match Stack’s turnout model, the reality is that would translate into only 301 total votes.  That would have been 244 better than Murphy’s actual performance, but the number is so small that it is insignificant.

Noteworthy in the 2017 Democratic primary was Secaucus, the hometown of Hudson County Democratic Chairman Vincent Prieto.  Murphy received 51%, and just 19% of Secaucus Democrats turned out to vote.  Murphy’s lackluster performance in Secaucus makes it even more astonishing that some members of the governor’s political team tried to save Prieto’s speakership, and that he landed upward in a $280,000-a-year job running the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.

Steven Fulop can’t deliver votes in Jersey City the way Frank Hague or John V. Kenny could, but in his defense, it’s been a long time since Jersey City voters followed the recommendations of their mayor the way they do for Stack in Union City and Sacco in North Bergen.

Just for fun – and with no sense of reality — pretend that Fulop was Stack.  That would have meant 33,495 votes for Murphy instead of 9,802.  Big difference.

If the primary for Hudson County Executive between Tom DeGise and his yet-to-be-named opponent materializes – some think it won’t come to that – Fulop will face the task of delivering votes away from DeGise, a former Jersey City Council President who would have been mayor if 1,326 voters voted for him instead of Glenn Cunningham in a 2001 runoff.   DeGise released some endorsements from Jersey City yesterday that shows he still has hometown support.

In Fulop’s favor is that the Jersey City electorate has changed since the days of DeGise being a popular local official, and that newer, younger city residents may be interested in a changing of the guard.  He can get a boost if State Sen. Sandra Cunningham joins his alliance.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is part of the movement to replace DeGise, but slightly more than two months into his term, he is still dealing with an opposition City Council.  Bayonne has a competitive race for Mayor; incumbent Jimmy Davis has already endorsed DeGise, and if he’s re-elected, he might be in a stronger position to deliver votes.  If Jason O’Donnell beats him, it could mean a shift of political alliances in Bayonne. Bottom line: both factions in Bayonne still have clout, so it’s possible that no county executive candidate comes out of Bayonne with an enormous plurality.

So far, the only certainties in this warette is that Stack and Sacco – two guys who don’t like each other and are on opposite sides of the playing field today – are the only ones in the position to deliver real votes on election day.

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