Monday, April 30, 2018

Grist for the Mill - RaviLeaks: 'He's bailing on mayor to take the Assembly seat'

"It's three months, where's my next political job?"

According to people who declined to comment on the record, that's very much a current topic for Hoboken's mayor Ravi Bhalla.

Hoboken's new mayor with political junkets to Trenton and Texas under his belt is scoping out his next political position in elected office. The road of opportunity is, however, rather narrow and one that's bedeviled Ravi Bhalla for years.

A bold move to make a jump before the four-year Hoboken mayoral term is on the table several insiders say. Bhalla made no promise not to leverage the office of Hoboken mayor for personal political gain, unlike his Reform rival Councilwoman Jen Giattino. The issue became a hot topic in last fall's mayoral campaign.

Insiders say that the brouhaha over Ravi Bhalla's second "no show" job has created a bad taste among many in Hoboken with no end in sight. "That's a way to game the system and Ravi put headlights on the practice. No one is happy about it getting out," said one statewide player.

As some see the switch at best as a middling move, there's one distinct advantage between holding a seat in the Assembly and Hoboken mayor. The NJ Assembly position is considered part-time and most of its members hold down outside jobs. "Ravi can wheel and deal to his heart's content in the Assembly and no one will take notice, unlike the scrutiny he's generated in Hoboken," one HudCo politico said.

In Hoboken, there's more than a little residual anger over Bhalla's breaking a campaign promise to exit his former law firm and make Hoboken his work priority. The City Council remains less than enamored with the unanswered questions about the broken promise and is looking to amp up oversight. No one knows how much money Ravi Bhalla has brought in to-date for his second job with a Republican law firm.

Another person outside Hoboken pointed to the origins of the sweetheart legal deal employment contract saying, "It was set up for Ravi by the previous law firm."

Bhalla may elect to make a jump for the Assembly office as a sitting Hoboken mayor. He's not interested with running off cycle after his four-year term is completed and the Hoboken public may reject him in a potential runoff election in 2021.

This November, the Hoboken electorate will decide if it wishes to reinstitute runoff elections. Mayor Bhalla has been mocked by HudCo County Executive Tom DeGise for getting only 32% of the vote and said he won't be calling "no more" stating he was ambushed and Bhalla stabbed him in the back.

(Video begins at the 34:00 minute mark.)


Most local observers are aware prior to being mayor, then-councilman Ravi Bhalla was intensely interested in politically getting out of Hoboken and viewed the NJ Assembly as his ticket up the ladder. But two failed Assembly election bids, the first in 2011 to bolt midterm from the Hoboken City Council failed. State Senator Brian Stack was especially riled by Ravi Bhalla bucking him leaving Bhalla out in the political wilderness.

The Bhalla Assembly campaign efforts were squashed like a bug but the route to that legislative office may reopen with a period of detente as Stack is warming up to Bhalla backing his efforts to win Democratic  County Chair and his eventual choice for HudCo County Executive. "He's cutting a deal with Stack and will bump off Annette," said one who is privy to the whispers referencing the Assembly seat held by current two-term Assemblywoman Annette Chapparo.

Runoff elections may force Ravi Bhalla's hand as he looks to make a safe landing before his term is up. The NJ Assembly seat will be up for election in November 2019. If Hoboken voters bring back runoffs this November, a sitting City Council president may be needed to be seated as acting mayor in January 2020.

The last question among many minds is who would Ravi Bhalla try to see take the mayor's seat in his unfinished term? Last month, Bhalla held his first fundraiser not three months into his current job and declared war on the good governance council trio of Peter Cunningham, Jen Giattino and Tiffanie Fisher a full year and a half before council ward elections next year.

Now the premature declaration on his former Reform colleagues is becoming more clear. Upset at their support to allow the Hoboken voters decide on runoffs, he's being forced to play out a potentially bad hand that's cut into his political ambitions.

As a result, another woman in elected office could be Ravi Bhalla's next target to bump off.

Grist for the Mill is MSV's rumor column. Got a tasty carrot for Horsey? Send it to smartyjones@me.com. All email is kept confidential and is protected by Da Horsey's proven Reporter Privilege upheld under the NJ Shield Law in Hudson County Superior Court. In farm animals we trust.