Assembly Speaker and 32nd District Democrat Vinnie Prieto held a fundraiser in his hometown of Secaucus and both locals and outsiders - pols, lawyers who double as lobbyists, and characters - filled a catering room in the La Reggia restaurant.
You can throw a proverbial stone from the restaurant entrance and hit Route 3 east. The eatery is attached to the Meadowlands Hotel, which is also across the street from where we should all be, the Retro gym, in my estimation of the soft girth and gray hair (even the shoe-blacked variety) that was present.
It was a short Wednesday evening of toasting Prieto, and the party theme was almost a continuation of an episode of the old series "Lost," where each character is reborn, stronger and tougher. The idea is that the Hudson County Democratic Organization is experiencing a rebirth, a return to political prominence.
In my opinion, this is presumptively based on the unity being expressed by the HCDeadO members at each past gathering. It has yet to be based on its impact on statewide political prominence. True, Prieto is one of state government's holy trinity, the others being Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie. Then, you could see that the political body's hand moved and shouts of "it's alive!"
Based on Hudson's past, the bar is set high and it could be held by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who everyone knows aspires to be governor, although he has not officially blown the trumpets. A sit up and take notice moment would be electing Gov. Fulop. Prieto probably realizes that should this happen, it would be the end of his position as speaker, since no one county can hold both posts.
It was as if Fulop seemed to know his messianic role. With everyone in dark suit and tie, his symbolic purity stood out in a sea of gray and navy blue because he wore only his white shirt and rolled up sleeves and tie (and slacks, etc. of course, silly). It prompted U.S. Rep. Albio Sires to preface his remarks about Prieto to announce, "We're all chipping in to buy Mayor Fulop a jacket."
Prieto's mentor, as the Assembly Speaker called him, North Bergen Mayor and state Senator Nick Sacco, was more direct. "Steve Fulop, as the mayor, helped heal the county," Sacco said. "He put his own ego aside to make sure the county operated as a team. I really commend him for that because when change (from Jerramiah Healy to Fulop) occurs, you never know what will happen. What has happened has been good for Hudson County with Steve Fulop as mayor of Jersey City, and I commend him for what he did."
"Thank you," Fulop said quietly from his seat.
Who was there? I saw county Executive Tom DeGise and his chief of staff, Bill Gaughan; mayors Jimmy Davis of Bayonne, Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, Felix Roque of West New York, Gerald Drasheff of Guttenberg, James Fife of Harrison, Richard Turner of Weehawken, and Fulop.
I also spotted Assembly members Angelica Jimenez of West New York, 32nd District; Carmelo Garcia, Hoboken and 33rd District; Charles Mainor, Jersey City and 31st District; Jack McKeon of West Orange and 27th District; Marlene Caride of Ridgefield and 36th District; and Valerie Vainieri Huttle of Englewood (via North Bergen) and 37th District.
John Currie, chairman of the state Democratic Party and of , Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle, Hudson County Sheriff Frank X. Schillari ("Write something about me, Augie. It can be good or negative, but something!"), former Union City Mayor and ex-Assemblyman Rudy Garcia, a whole bunch of attorneys, including Michael DeCotiis of the Fulop Circle, and eventually arriving Freeholder Anthony Romano of Hoboken. I know there were many more but I can't do everyone. OK, one more - retired attorney Herb Klitzner of North Bergen, who expresse some interesting and entertaining off-the-record remarks - and Klitzner's "subject" probably knows what was said.
Since this was Prieto's function, we'll end with some of Sacco's remarks about the Assembly Speaker: "Vinnie has helped heal the state of New Jersey. He stood up for all of us. And when there were little fights going on, Vinnie prevailed through skill, ability and Cuban stubbornness. He made sure things worked out well for everybody and particularly Hudson County." The Cuban remark got laughs.