Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2: Grinches

We will discuss Grinches who have come upon the scene both in Tenafly and Hoboken this election season.

Tenafly Grinches

The election of 2015 is this writer’s first experience of a mayoral contest in Tenafly. Because the politicking in this fair borough of suburban New Jersey is done largely behind the scenes, if at all, it is difficult for me to ascertain whether the negative tone of one of the campaigns is typical, particular to this candidate, or perhaps a product of our society’s supposedly overheated partisanship.

Be that as it may, the first public salvo in the current campaign took the form of an interesting lawn sign that popped up around town a few weeks ago. It’s text: “3 Terms Are Enough. Tenafly Needs a New Mayor.” I will do my best to set aside a grammatical quibble (which for me is in truth unresolved), whether it should be “three terms IS enough” rather than “ARE enough.” Maybe I am infected by that late 1970s sit-com, “Eight Is Enough,” and in truth I rather disliked that show.

A political or a grammatical statement?
What was interesting about these signs is that – in addition to the cool Halloween-themed color! – there is no suggestion as to whom the perpetrator of the signs thinks one should vote for, let alone why three terms is (OK, the singular is MY vote) sufficient for the incumbent mayor’s service.

Now, if this had been Hoboken, I would have been left entirely to my own devices to figure out the responsible party. By which I mean I would never expect a negative-campaign sign stuck to a telephone pole or hung in a window there (lawn signs are rare in the more urban setting) to bother to follow the law requiring campaign committees to take credit for their expenditures. No, in Tenafly it was only a matter of looking more closely at one of the signs.

In fact, the type was extremely small. Trespassing was required. I was undeterred, and my mission successful. The minuscule credit informed me that it was the campaign of Ron Cutro, Steve Savas, and David Simpson. More research was necessary. A simple Google search did not send me to a website or Facebook page to illuminate things. But I remained undeterred and looked more deeply, ultimately finding a Bergen County GOP website that lists current candidates.

I learned that Mr. Cutro is running for mayor, and the other two gentlemen are running for Borough Council. Mayors have a term of four years in Tenafly. Council members have a term of three years; each year there is an election for two seats and a total of six seats in all.

The sign is not aimed at a Democrat. Rather it is aimed at the incumbent, Peter Rustin, who is unaffiliated with any party. Mr. Rustin won office in 2003. I have been unable to ascertain whether that race included more than two candidates, only that Mr. Rustin defeated a Republican, Marge Kerge, an on-and-off member of the Borough Council (most recently defeated in a re-election campaign last year). In 2007, Mr. Rustin outpolled the combined votes for the Republican and Democratic candidate by a margin of two to one. And in 2011, when no Democrat ran, he beat the Republican by two to one. Mr. Rustin appears to have roughly 2000 supporters, while Un-Rustin has about 1000 supporters.

Of course that only considers those who vote. Tenafly has about 14,000 residents. There are about 9000 registered voters, of whom roughly one-third are registered Democrats, one-sixth registered Republicans, and one-half unaffiliated. In presidential elections in recent history, the vote has always gone to the Democrat by a substantial margin.

It is unknown to me how Mr. Cutro’s gambit was initially taken in, let alone what was his intent and that of his slate colleagues. My speculation is that the intent was to invoke outrage, outrage at a long-time incumbent without a direct confrontation, with the strategy not so much to win over Rustin’s past supporters as to make enough of them sufficiently disgruntled to stay away from the polls. There was at least one letter to the editor of a local weekly expressing outrage at the strategy (not quite what the campaign had in mind), with the writer evidently unaware of the source of the signs (only going to show that either not everyone is willing to trespass, or perhaps only that their presbyopia is more severe than mine).

For weeks, there were no lawn signs advertising the Republican slate. Only in the last several days did signs (matching Halloween color!) start to appear naming them (but not as Republicans) along with the slogan “Less Spending. More Democracy.” (I might again quibble that “Lower Spending” might be a more precise usage.)

Low, low prices on government!
Based on letters to the editor by the candidates, I have found that the basic platform of the Republicans is that under Mr. Rustin and a now unanimously Democratic council, we are taxed too heavily and spending is undertaken in a thoughtless manner. Property taxes are high in Tenafly, and generally in Bergen County. Not that it is the paragon anyone should hold up for comparison, but taxes in Tenafly are not very much different than what I experienced in Hoboken, and to compare the quality of public services between the two communities is, frankly, laughable. That does not mean that all the spending that happens is wise. (It is worth a reminder that only a portion of the spending is controlled by the mayor and council – much of it is in the domain of the local Board of Education and the Bergen County executive and Board of Chosen Freeholders. (Don’t you love that title?))

Mr. Cutro has no recent experience running for office. But one of his slate colleagues does, namely an unsuccessful run for a Board of Education seat. In that election, the avowed platform he shared with his slate was to represent “empty nesters,” those who do not currently have children in the local schools and who are outraged by how much money was being spent to that end, driving up tax bills. (The quote is from a slate member, but is inclusive of all three.) Whatever the merit of their arguments, the slate was thoroughly trounced.

Call it the Grinch Effect if you like, but whatever you name it, Outrage is an important component of politics, and while it does not always win the day, it can certainly be an effective tool. One need only look at the current presidential campaign to see that. (I personally think the candidate who wins the outrage contest is Carly Fiorina. I nearly had a panic attack as I watched this video from her own website.)

By the way, wouldn’t Freud have had a field day with the Grinch? Talk about an Oedipus complex! Dr. Seuss was brilliant. And let’s take a look at Scrooge. We know that the Grinch’s heart grows bigger, because we get to actually see it happen. But what about Ebenezer? Might it be more about fear and loathing when he gets to see his rags and bones picked over by poor people? Brilliant. And it’s even more brilliant because while we all know that while both characters turn over new leaves, nonetheless calling someone “Grinch” or “Scrooge” is not exactly a compliment.

Are Mr. Cutro & Co. the Grinches Who Stole Halloween in Tenafly? Perhaps. But what about Mr. Rustin. Isn’t he the Grinch Who Stole Christmas in Tenafly in 2013?

What? Yes! Mr. Rustin got national press coverage for waging the War on Christmas. (Yes! The Breitbart website, among others!) That has not been a part of the current campaign. Perhaps that means he won? I don’t know if he won or lost. I think maybe it was a tie.

You will wonder why I’d wait two years to share this tale. I plead guilty. I simply never got around to it.

So, perhaps Mr. Rustin has proven to be at least a little like the real Grinch – he apologized, sort of. Maybe. At least from the perspective of entertainment value, it is sad that the Republicans have not injected this episode into their campaign.

At least not yet.

Hoboken Grinches

Sure, Tenafly may suffer from politics, like anyplace in the wide world, but really now – it’s no Hoboken. And of course Hoboken has elections, too, this first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

In Hoboken’s case it is for six seats on the City Council, and three seats on the Board of Education. The latter has nine members, each serving for four years, with a crop of three seats up for election each year. The Council has nine seats, too, with members elected serving a term of four years – the six up this year are one for each of the city’s six electoral Wards, while two years from now (synchronized with the Mayoral election) the three At-Large seats come up.

I’m going to dispense with the Board of Education quickly. There hasn’t been a lot of evident excitement about these races, which pit a slate of “Reformers” against a slate of “Old Guard” candidates. (The former embrace their informal moniker; the latter not so much.) The real action in these races has typically been in finding out how many absentee ballots are cast. If it’s a lot, then either the Old Guard wins, or it’s close. If there aren’t so many, the Reform slate wins. It is not that no one is paying attention here, but rather that it’s relatively under the radar because there is considerable action for the Council seats, which are if nothing else more prestigious. (Council members also get a modest salary and health benefits; Board members serve on a voluntary basis without benefits.)

Five of the six Council seats are contested this year, and it was almost the case that all six were. Each race offers an interesting perspective on Hoboken politics, so I’ll take them in numerical order. There’s no especially good reason for me to do that, but it serves as a convenient excuse to save the best (or “best”) race for last.

The First Ward has been served for some 21 years by one Terry Castellano. Ms. Castellano is a cousin of the Third Ward member, Michael Russo, whose father served as Hoboken’s mayor, and was tried, convicted, and served time shortly after he completed his time in office. The elder Mr. Russo owes the city some hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution, but he evidently spends too much time at his house down the Jersey Shore to do anything about that. It is safe to say that Ms. Castellano is a member of the Old Guard, and more particularly of what is known as the Russo Faction (even called that in New Jersey court documents).

Possibly Ms. Castellano’s finest moment as Council member came in 2009. Michael Russo had questioned a line in the budget of the Hoboken Parking Utility. It seemed revenues were down drastically – by some $1 million – and he wondered why. The director of the Utility meekly agreed to do an audit. He came back with a rather strange one that I have written about. His answers seemed to satisfy certain Council members, notably Mr. Russo and Ms. Castellano, who can be quoted as saying, “It’s all cleared up.” It was not. The Utility’s director, John Corea, was skimming off quarters and how. The City pursued this matter, and ultimately he was convicted.

Ms. Castellano’s competition, endorsed by Mayor Dawn Zimmer, is Mike DeFusco. Mr. DeFusco served two terms on the Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustment, and in fact was more thought of as aligned with the “Old Guard” than otherwise, but he seems to have crossed over and been accepted as a “Reformer.”

The Reform community seems to feel there is some optimism for success. Mr. DeFusco is described as energetic in his campaign and doing good grassroots work. However, Ms. Castellano’s base of support, which is seen largely as comprising residents of middle-income subsidized housing, presumably remains strong as ever.

For the past eight years, the Second Ward has been represented by Beth Mason, who will be familiar to the readers of these pages. Ms. Mason came up in Hoboken politics as a reformer, and in particular someone willing to go out and sue the city, at the expense of her own family’s considerable fortune, to get access to records and communications relevant to procedure and spending. The administration of Mayor David Roberts (definitely “Old Guard,” though a faction in opposition to the Russo family) certainly did not enjoy dealing with Ms. Mason. Ms. Mason won a seat on the Council in 2007 and it was widely expected she would be a strong “Reform” candidate for Mayor in 2009.

However, this plan was foiled by the rise of Dawn Zimmer, who also won a Council seat in 2007, in the Fourth Ward. Though both first won elective office the same year, Ms. Mason was generally seen as the more senior politician, she having been involved in civic matters for a substantially longer period. Ms. Zimmer initially indicated no interest in running for Mayor, but she soon changed her mind, saying that she felt the items on her reform agenda were not being addressed by Ms. Mason. Ultimately, both began campaigns for the 2009 election, which became a three-way race with Peter Cammarano representing the “Old Guard.”

Though Ms. Mason would describe it otherwise, what quickly ensued is that she took several steps that associated her with the Russo faction of the Old Guard. First, she supported the long-term extension of a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for a housing development. More critically, when it came to naming a slate of at-large Council candidates, she chose three men strongly associated with the Russo faction.

The outcome was that Ms. Zimmer ended up in a runoff election with Mr. Cammarano, Ms. Mason coming in a distant third. Mr. Cammarano won the runoff, curiously with the help of some funds from the FBI that were supplied by an informant. But Ms. Zimmer had in the meantime become Council president, and when Cammarano resigned under pressure, she automatically became Acting Mayor. Literally on the day that all happened, Ms. Mason indicated her intention to run for Mayor. She did not fare well, with Ms. Zimmer winning a very strong plurality in a multicandidate race.

To say that the relationship between Ms. Zimmer and Ms. Mason has been strained is a something of an understatement. Ms. Mason became strongly aligned with the Old Guard faction of the City Council, and during a brief period when they were in the majority she served as President. At all other times, she has been at the forefront of opposing anything and everything that Ms. Zimmer and her supporters on the Council have supported.

Ms. Mason did not run for Mayor again in 2013. Instead she supported the campaign of Timothy Occhipinti, who now represents the Fourth Ward. Mr. Occhipinti, in this campaign, was sponsored by Frank “Pupie” (pronounced POO-pie) Raia (RAY-uh), a local developer. We’ll get back to him later. Mr. Occhipinti’s was a very well-funded campaign, but ultimately the one among three that got (by a substantial margin) the least number of votes.

Basically, Ms. Mason, while re-elected to her Council spot in 2011, really has not proven to be very popular in Hoboken overall. She aspired to bigger things. She put out a trial balloon to run for governor. She has donated lavishly to races all around the state. Her money is gratefully accepted, but it has not amounted to greener pastures, at least not yet.

It would appear she is tired of it all, at least as to being on the front lines in Hoboken, and she decided not to run for re-election to her Council seat. It does not mean the last has been heard from Beth Mason, but it does mean the seat is open.

Or maybe it has nothing to do with fatigue. Perhaps it has something to do with the court ruling on a defamation case brought by two of her supporters against Hoboken bloggers and others who are associated with Reform. Not only did the Mason supporters lose, they lost rather miserably and were assessed considerable (some quarter of a million dollars) in attorney fees. And perhaps it has something to do with the torrent of e-mails, produced during discovery, that have been published by those two entertaining bloggers, many of which posts make Ms. Mason and her coterie look, well, rather Grinch-like, and would no doubt have gotten considerable public play had she run.

In other words, maybe Ms. Mason came to the conclusion she would lose ignominiously.

Beth Mason.
Someone else.
There are two-and-a-half candidates to success Ms. Mason. Or maybe it’s more like 2.1, or 2.0001. OK, there are three names on the ballot. One is Peter Biancamano. He has long been associated with Mr. Raia, and currently serves on the Board of Education, definitely Old Guard, but of a particular flavor. One is Tiffanie Fisher, who president of a large condominium development in the Second Ward and is associated with the Reform camp. The other is Bonnie Murray. Ms. Murray is herself a political new-comer, but her husband, Brian, is not – he has been a very public and vocal supporter of the Old Guard, associated with the Russo faction, including as an unsuccessful candidate for the Board of Education.

Mr. Murray’s choice to run for the Board was curious, given that his line of work is as a realtor and his business model is about “escaping to the burbs,” in which he cajoles local residents to decamp in order to, among other things, access better schools. Community pride!

It was initially the case that there were two Old Guard council slates, one belonging to the Russo faction and the other supported by Frank Raia. Mr. Biancamano was part of the latter – but he has crossed over to the Russos. It was perhaps the case that Ms. Murray was allied with the Russos, but this is in fact unclear. She has essentially run no campaign at all. It is thought by some in the Reform camp that she is running in order to siphon off even a few votes from the Reform candidate, to bolster the chances of Mr. Biancamano. It may be enough.

Michael Russo has represented the Third Ward since 2003, and is the son of Anthony Russo, who was Mayor from 1993 to 2001, and subsequently convicted of accepting bribes, served time, and still owes restitution of some $300,000. Though he might state otherwise, the younger Mr. Russo’s career is not entirely uncheckered, in particular that part about being capture on video tape wheeling and dealing, and prospectively accepting a bribe, from Solomon Dwek, whose work for the FBI (hinted at above) brought down Mr. Cammarano. Mr. Russo ultimately backed off actually taking the money. Whatever the case, Mr. Russo has inherited his father’s mantle as the leader of an Old Guard political faction in Hoboken, indeed the leading faction.

It was not known until the last day petitions could be submitted whether he would have an opponent in this year’s election. But he did have one – Frank Raia. Mr. Raia and the Russos, though sometimes working together, only do so out of convenience. They have opposed each other before, directly and by proxy. They are both renowned for success in gathering Vote by Mail (VBM) ballots, some would say doing so in the form of payoffs, though this has never been proved, or even prosecuted, though there is some interesting circumstantial evidence.

Such was the state of the matter on August 31. But before the end of September, Mr. Raia announced he was withdrawing from the race, due to ill health, and seeking to have his name removed from the ballot. (It seems his name is nonetheless still on the ballot, but he truly is not running.) One Reform-oriented blogger has written that Mr. Raia withdrew in a deal through which he would be appointed the representative for Weehawken to the Hudson Sewerage Authority, but this same blogger has subsequently indicated that the deal may in fact not work out for Mr. Raia.

Why would Mr. Raia make that sort of trade? The position is unpaid, after all. Perhaps it is an interest in what is coming down the pipes. But the more widely accepted theory is that the position used to come with health benefits, and Mr. Raia is currently finishing out a term as commissioner for Hoboken and is grandfathered in with the benefits so long as his service is continuous. However, evidently, the current powers that be in Hoboken are not interested in reappointing him.

While the Reform camp didn’t exactly have a true favorite between Mr. Russo and Mr. Raia, Mr. Raia’s withdrawal means that Mr. Russo could exert his efforts – and resources – toward supporting others running for office. His faction includes Ms. Castellano, Mr. Biancamano, and candidates in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth wards, as I will further elaborate.

The Fourth Ward is, arguably, a replay of the 2013 Mayoral election. Indeed, it shares two of the three candidates, both Mr. Occhipinti, who is the incumbent, and Ruben Ramos. Mr. Ramos is a former Councilor for the ward, as well as a former Board of Education member, and most recently New Jersey Assembly Member for the 33rd District, representing Hoboken, Jersey City, and West New York. Mr. Ramos served four years in that capacity, and supposedly left office at the end of 2013 in order to instead run for Mayor. However, most believe that he did not run for re-election by choice. As regular readers here know, the structure of the legislative branch in New Jersey is somewhat novel in that the State is divided into districts that each have one Senator and two Assembly members. (Voters may choose two candidates – or just check off one – when behind the curtain.) Senators serve four years, and Assembly members for two-year terms. Thus, they are elected together every four years, but the Assembly members also face the ballot in between as well.

In many cases, this ends up meaning that the Senator is the powerbroker for the Assembly candidates for the same party. That is certainly the case with the 33rd District, which is very much the fief of Senator Brian Stack, who is also the mayor of West New York. Every two years, we all (well, some of us) wait breathlessly to find out who he will choose. He sometimes seeks input from his neighboring mayors, sometimes not. Candidates bow before him, usually. He generally decides on or about the last possible day. And, given that Democrats seriously outnumber Republicans in Hudson County, his choices always win (as does he). In recent years, Ms. Mason has floated being one of his lieutenants, as has Mr. Raia, but also a Reform member of the Hoboken Council, Ravi Bhalla. Mr. Stack? He’s the boss!

Mr. Stack does appear to look to having a candidate each from Jersey City and Hoboken, to balance off his being from West New York. He also likes to have a Hispanic candidate and often an Indian-American candidate (he being neither). That’s good politics, to be sure.

Though there is no explicit information to support it, it seems that after four years, he’d had enough with Mr. Ramos and did not intend to support him as part of his team. Curiously, who he chose (and of course who subsequently was elected) was a close friend of Mr. Ramos’s – Carmelo Garcia, who took office in January 2014. Yes, we’ve read about him – and we will spill more ink if you can continue to count from four to six.

Mr. Ramos came in a not very close second to Dawn Zimmer in his 2013 run for Mayor. However, if one added together his votes and those for Mr. Occhipinti, that would have made a majority, and thus, if Mr. Occhipinti had not run, it is quite arguable that Mr. Ramos would have won. There is bad blood over that. Some might say that Mr. Ramos is running for his old seat – as part of the Russo faction ticket –  on the Council primarily to spite Mr. Occhipinti. That may be a factor, but it is far from obvious that Mr. Ramos also simply sees this as a chance to regain a foothold in elective office, and perhaps a future try for Mayor, or whatever.

This one is Mr. Ramos.
Much the same pose, but I honestly see no resemblance.
So, to the extent this is a grudge match, one can think of Mr. Ramos as a Hoboken Grinch. But I’m not done writing.

At the start of things, it was assumed that Mr. Occhipinti would be part of Council slate headed by Mr. Raia, but it is unclear whether Mr. Raia’s withdrawal has also meant a withdrawal of his material support. Further, Mr. Occhipinti has widely been written off by the Reform movement as a puppet of the Old Guard and not himself a strong player. Nonetheless, he is in the race for real, though most handicappers would expect Mr. Ramos to draw more votes.

The question is whether having both of them in the campaign will open door for a Reform candidate to win the day. That candidate is Dana Wefer. This is her first run for elective office, but she is not new to local politics or public service. She currently serves on the board of the Hoboken Housing Authority, as its president no less, and soon after she joined that board locked horns with the Authority’s executive director – Carmelo Garcia. The outcome of that was Mr. Garcia’s dismissal (and of course a lawsuit). Along the way, numerous questions have been lofted about the management of the Authority under the charge of Mr. Garcia, with certainly some interesting items audits – while Mr. Garcia’s supporters have stated that he was run out for purely political reasons, and also as a form of racial discrimination.

The Fourth Ward is particularly known as a nexus for supposed harvesting of illegal absentee ballots, but the allegations are that such gathering (in return for money) happens primarily in the buildings run by the Hoboken Housing Authority, which are largely located in that Ward. With Mr. Garcia no longer in charge, of course the environment for such alleged skullduggery would seem to be less enticing, but no one believes that will prove to be any blockade to such efforts. Not including any provisional ballots, Mr. Zimmer won the Fourth Ward in the Mayoral election by a single vote (824 to 823 for Mr. Ramos and 300 for Mr. Occhipinti).

The Fifth is one of two wards in Hoboken currently represented by a member of the Reform community, Peter Cunningham, who is seeking his third term. His opponent is Eduardo Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez has not held elective office, but he did until recently serve on the board of the Hoboken Housing Authority, where he was a supporter of Mr. Garcia. He was not reappointed by the Reform-controlled City Council – thus clearing the way for a clear majority that was not supportive of Mr. Garcia, paving the way for his dismissal. Not surprisingly, Mr. Gonzalez is part of the Russo faction ticket. Mr. Cunningham has twice defeated Old Guard candidates, and he will not be easy to beat.

Best for last! If it this is your first time reading the Hoboken Diary, you may wonder why Assembly Member Garcia would be running for the small-potatoes office of Sixth Ward Council member in Hoboken. That’s because he is soon to be the Former Assembly Member for the 33rd District, as after only a single two-year term, the all-powerful Mr. Stack chose not to designate him again, instead choosing a different Hoboken-based Hispanic, who also happens to be the spouse of the Hoboken Police Commissioner. It is thought by some that Mr. Stack regretted his choice of Mr. Garcia almost immediately. He did not always vote as desired (as was the case with Mr. Russo), but in addition, Mr. Garcia turned heads by secretly recording conversations, particularly a conversation with Mr. Stack’s predecessor in the Senate, Bernard Kenny, and the husband of Mayor Zimmer, Stanley Grossbard. I’ve written about this at length. Not that the relationship between Mr. Kenny and Mr. Stack is exactly close – Mr. Stack pushed Mr. Kenny out, effectively, and it would be a stretch to say Mr. Stack is in any way close to Ms. Zimmer. But Mr. Kenny is generally well-liked, and besides, wearing a wire does not inspire confidence in one’s colleagues, particular as the wire was clearly worn in order to attempt to incriminate for a lawsuit that was eventually filed.

Thus, Mr. Garcia’s not continuing at the Assembly could be put down as “Does not play well with others.”

Whatever, the case, it’s tough losing the well-paid and powerful Housing Authority job and the Assembly job at about the same time. While Mr. Garcia has found new public employment in Newark as his main gig, he is not done with politics, and is looking to unseat the other incumbent Reform-aligned member of the Council, Jennifer Giattino.

Ms. Giattino unseated an Old Guard council member, Angelo “Nino” Giacchi, in 2011 – which was by no means expected. She was a strong retail politician on her first time out. Interestingly, this despite being a Republican, though she hardly flaunts that affiliation. Mr. Giacchi cultivated a reputation as being a moderate member of the Old Guard, so his defeat was doubly painful for that side.

A candidate with the city-wide reputation (for good or ill) and resources of Mr. Garcia, as part of the Russo faction ticket, is not to be trifled with, and this race is one to watch closely. One interesting note: Mr. Garcia has evidently not filed either the 29 day or 11 day reports due to NJ ELEC, the commission that oversees campaign finances. The number of days in the report titles are a particular number of days before an election. ELEC has a reputation as a rather toothless sort of predator, but they did fine Ms. Mason rather heftily (at least by ELEC standards).

Right now, the three At-Large council members are all from the Reform side, and thus with Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Giattino, make a majority of the nine-member Council. However, six votes are needed for bonding issues, and thus the Reform side dearly wants not only to retain Wards Five and Six, but to pick up one more. And of course, the Old Guard desperately wants to pick off a Reform seat (or two) to regain a majority, which it has held only briefly since 2009, also as a catapult into the 2017 election for Mayor and the At-Large seats.

It is unknown if Ms. Zimmer will seek a third term as Mayor, and if not who from the Reform movement will step up. Her success, or that of any other Reform candidates from among the Council members, will rest in large part on success in this election. Similarly, one would expect – should expect – Mssrs. Ramos and Garcia to be viable Old Guard candidates for Mayor in 2017 if they win election this time (and it would be interesting how these two close friends work that out), but they would also potentially need to contend with Mr. Russo and with Freeholder Anthony “Stick” Romano, who I confess I have strained to mention because I adore his nickname.

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