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June Primary or November election?

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Jersey City Guide

Posted by Urban Times News on March 16, 2006 at 17:32:44:

Signs of the Times
June Primary or November election?

By Geraldine R. Clark

Everyone is speculating whether Sandra Bolden-Cunningham, wife of the late Jersey City Mayor Glenn D. Cunningham is running for the U.S. Senate because signs that say “Sandy Cunningham for Senate” have popped up around Hudson County. Mrs. Cunningham stated that she has no knowledge of the signs but she has heard her name mentioned in the Senate race.

POLITIFAX, a weekly electronic newsletter on politics in New Jersey, March 15, 2006 edition questions whether there is an attack against the wife of the late Mayor. The blurb does mention that Mayor Cunningham and Bob Menendez weren’t exactly at the top of each other’s Christmas list.

If memory serves me correctly, it was more like a major feud and that feud may now be between Mrs. Cunningham and Menendez.

You may remember that the feud between the Mayor and the Congressman started when they made Bernard M. Hartnett, Jr. Hudson County Executive in 2001. The two were ‘good buddies’ at that time. Cunningham helped Menendez become the head of the Hudson County Democratic Organization against the advice of other Hudson County mayors. Menendez was to be the chair for one year and being in this position would help him (Menendez) not get screwed by other county chairs. He needed Cunningham’s help and he needed to be the County Chair to help him negotiate his position with the other county chairs around the state.

According to a source close to Cunningham, the feud began when Menendez wanted Hartnett to give contracts to a few of his friends and Hartnett wouldn’t do it. Menendez retaliated against him and when Cunningham supported Hartnett for County Executive, Menendez used Thomas DeGise to run against Hartnett. DeGise won the election. You may remember that DeGise ran against Cunningham for mayor and it was a very bitter campaign. Menendez supported Cunningham during that race.

When Cunningham ran for the state Senate in 2003, he was opposed by almost every mayor in the county, including West New York Mayor Albio Sires, Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria and then Governor James E. McGreevy. Cunningham won that election.

Cunningham tried to settle the dispute between Menendez and himself but to no avail. Menendez wanted no part of making up. Menendez refused to meet with the Mayor. Instead, Menendez rallied as many other Hudson County elected officials to his side, including Jersey City Councilman William Gaughan, who is a very close friend and mentor to Rudy Garcia, former Union City Mayor.

Menendez and the Hudson County Democratic Organization sued Bobby Jackson and Joseph Cardwell’s political organization, stating that the group had spent $400,000.00 unlawfully in the campaign. Of course, the HC Democratic Organization didn’t mention that they spent over 2 million dollars in that campaign only to lose. That loss was like putting oil on the fire. Menendez and the HCDO didn’t take the loss lightly and continued to find other ways to go against Cunningham.

Unfortunately, Cunningham wasn’t the state Senator for too long as he passed away a few months later. Menendez than turned his attentions to the mayor’s wife, Sandy. According to the profile on Rep. Robert Menendez in the 2006 edition of ‘The Almanac of American Politics’ by Michael Barone, Menendez and his allies blocked his wife from running for the state Senate. Menendez was opposed in the June Democratic primary by a candidate backed by Cunningham’s team, but beat him. Some called him the political boss of Hudson County. “I bristle at the term,” said Menendez. But he did admit to the existence of what some would call political bosses. “I think there are people with very significant influence in certain parts of the state.”

Normally a spouse can replace their deceased partner in their elected position to serve out the remainder of their term. Sandy Cunningham talked to Bernie Kenny, the Hudson County Chair about replacing her husband as the state Senator. Kenny never got back to her on replacing her husband in the senate. Instead, the HCDO had a meeting in Menendez’s Jersey City office, the day after her husband’s death, to select their own choice for the position. They selected Joseph Doria, who had just lost his Assembly seat in the same election. Instead of appointing another African American to the state Senate, a position that Joseph Charles had been elevated to as a reward for all the years he served in the Assembly, they promoted Doria to a higher position. It should be noted that the HCDO appointed Doria to that position even though the general public voted him out of office.

According to this same close source of Mrs. Cunningham, a few weeks ago, Menendez called Sandy Cunningham at home to ask for her support in his campaign for U.S. Senate. Mrs. Cunningham told him she would not support him and not to call her ever again.

Within days of that call, the phones started ringing in the Attorney General’s office. As I previously reported, someone is putting pressure on the Attorney General’s office to put pressure on the Hudson County Prosecutors Office to put pressure on the Jersey City Municipal Prosecutors office to move Mrs. Cunningham’s DWI case to another municipality. Who would benefit from Mrs. Cunningham reputation being tarnished? Who would benefit if Mrs. Cunningham would appear to the general public that she has problems that would affect her leadership ability?

“If Sandy does run for the U.S. Senate it will not be in the June primary, it would be in November where it will really count,” said a close source to Cunningham. “We can’t promote change in the primary but in the general election that is where the real fight will take place.”

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