Latinos represent one of the fastest-growing segments of New Jersey’s population, and nowhere in New Jersey do they represent a greater share of the population than Hudson County. Yet relatively few major political officeholders in the county are Hispanic.
Curiously, Latinos are particularly underrepresented at the local level. Of the county’s twelve mayors, just one are Hispanic. Three of the county’s four majority-Hispanic municipalities have a white, non-Hispanic mayor. In total, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the other local local officeholders in the county are Hispanic.
|West New York
||Dawn Zimmer (acting)
||John Reilly (acting)
Latinos are similarly underrepresented in Hudson County’s state legislative delegation. Only
twothree of the county’s nine state legislators, the two Assemblymen from the 32nd district, are Hispanic (again in bold; African-Americans are in italics).
Latinos fare somwheat better in county government, where they hold three of nine freeholder seats and the position of sheriff. On the federal level, Albio Sires represents most of the county in the US House, and his predecessor in that district, Bob Menendez, is one of the state’s two US Senators; both Sires and Menendez are Cuban. Still, less than one-third of elected officials from the County are Hispanic.
Latinos are not the only underrepresented group in Hudson County politics. Women are even scarcer among public officeholders than Latinos, even though they cast a majority of the votes in every election. Just two elected officials in Hudson County government and two of the county’s state legislators are women.A woman has never been elected mayor in a Hudson County municipality, and no woman even served as one until Dawn Zimmer was sworn in as Mayor of Hoboken following the resignation of Peter Cammarano earlier this month. Just 30% of all local officeholders in Hudson County are women, and only in Kearny do they hold a majority in local government.
Nowhere is the glass ceiling so shatter-resistant as in majority-Hispanic North Bergen and Union City, the political fiefdoms of the Hudson County’s two Senator-Mayors. Both are Walsh Act municipalities, and thus they are each governed by a five-member commission which elects a mayor each year. The “mayor” merely chairs the commission; he has no more executive power than the other four commissioners. In many Walsh Act (and Township form) municipalities, commissioners (alternatively, township committee members) will usually allow the title of mayor to rotate between members of the majority party from year to year. Yet in North Bergen and Union City, Nick Sacco and Brian Stack have hoarded the mayoralty for themselves for 18 and 9 years respectively. While the title of mayor isn’t necessary for either Sacco and Stack to continue manipulating the levers of power, it undoubtedly helps each maintain and maximize control over his town. There are women and Latinos on both commissions who are capable of chairing a commission meeting, but they stand little hope of becoming mayor as long as Sacco and Stack are around. Machine politics in Hudson County no doubt includes women and minorities in the process, but positions of leadership largely remain the domain of white men.