With three years still left in his term, there is a decent chance Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop is already a lame duck. Some Democrats say he has already grown bored with being mayor and is looking for his next opportunity. Twenty months ago, it looked as though Fulop might be governor, but that fizzled quickly.
Mayor is no longer a fallback position as the 41-year-old man of ambition waits for something better to come around. He could still win in 2021, but as one Hudson pol said, “it won’t be no cakewalk.”
Fulop’s inability to deliver his own Democratic County Committee in Tuesday’s race for county chair has left a bunch of Hudson County insiders certain he would face a tough race if he does run. He has added some formidable enemies since he won 77% of the vote last November, and some say his second-term is already struggling amidst fights with Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and the Polish government, and more importantly, an unpopular property tax revaluation.
Now Fulop is toxic among Democratic organization circles. In a county where the twelve mayors typically meet like knights at the roundtable to discuss party business, the mayor of Jersey City has no presence in that room. Now it will somewhat resemble the days when Republican Bret Schundler was the Jersey City mayor, with Democrats running that party without the outsized, 362-county committee vote-wielding mayor of the state’s second largest city at the table. Either Tom DeGise will occupy that chair, nor it will just be eleven mayors in the room.
A short list of potential candidates for mayor has already emerged, including: State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, former corporation counsel and 2017 candidate Bill Matsikoudis, city councilmen James Solomon, Rolando Lavarro, Danny Rivera and Michael Yun, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, Hudson County Clerk Junior Maldonado, and former Assemblymen Sean Conners and Charles Mainor. Add Freeholder Bill O’Dea, a Fulop cheerleader to that list, if the mayor doesn’t run again. Tom DeGise said a while back that he has closed that chapter of his life — he lost a 2001 runoff — and would not run for mayor.
The conventional wisdom was that Fulop wanted to take the 8th district congressional seat now held by Albio Sires. But Sires had a giant win in Hudson this week and now the circumstances of his retirement are entirely in his hands.
Fulop is not without the tools to fight back, especially the fundraising ability accorded to his current office. He’s smart enough – though sometimes his tweets don’t reflect that – to mount a comeback. He’ll need to outgrow the impulsiveness that has created so many problems for him recently, and he’ll need to be a mensch and start making amends with the people in Hudson County who were once enthusiastic supporters but have now turned into anti-Fulop flamethrowers.