The Mile Square City’s upcoming November election is no longer a relatively quiet affair as incumbent two-term Mayor Dawn Zimmer has announced she will not be seeking re-election.
During a press conference held just after 11AM today, Zimmer endorsed two-term Councilman Ravinder Bhalla for the mayor’s office, who will run in her place. Bhalla is New Jersey’s only elected Sikh councilperson and considered to be a long-time ally of Zimmer, helping to push through several big-ticket projects during her run.
The move comes as a shock to many local political observers, a fair amount of whom considered her the favorite to win the race. Four out of her five endorsed Council candidates had triumphed in 2015 elections and her preferred Board of Education slate swept last year’s vote.
Her departure leaves Bhalla, First Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, business owner Karen Nason, and local activist Ronald Bautista as the remaining candidates. Freeholder Anthony Romano is also expected to enter the race, but has not yet officially declared his candidacy.
Zimmer is rumored to be up for consideration by Gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy as his running mate in the November Governor’s race. Murphy appeared at a fundraiser for the mayor in April and she was an early endorser of his candidacy. But officially, Zimmer told NJ Advance Media this morning that she does not have an agreement in place for a spot on the Democratic nominee’s ticket.
Some would describe Zimmer’s rise in Hoboken politics as unexpected. While she was City Council President in 2009, former Mayor Peter Cammarano was indicted on Federal corruption charges stemming from bribes he took from an FBI informant posing as a developer. Following his resignation, Zimmer was appointed Acting Mayor and then won the title outright in a special election later that year. She was re-elected to a second term in 2013.
Infrastructure improvements have been a big part of Zimmer’s second term. A H-5 wet weather station, or flood pump, was brought online last year as part of an effort to lessen (although not eliminate) flooding in low-lying neighborhoods. Two parks with underground water retention systems and an overhaul of the city’s sewers along Washington Street are both currently underway.
The full impact of today’s events remains to be seen, but it’s probably safe to say that the Hoboken mayoral race is officially wide open.