Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mediaite Confessional: I Was The New Jersey Hacker Mayor?s Campaign Manager

There it is, just as I imagined it. The gaudy Impact font, the gaping look of disbelief on his face; The Jersey Journal. It might be close to every day that Hudson County?s legendary corruption rag puts a local public official in handcuffs on its cover, but not every day is that official your old boss? one whose arrest you predicted in August 2009, to a city?s worth of chuckles.

While the nation sat transfixed on the so-called career-ending gaffes of wildly popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker, West New York Mayor Felix Roque?for whom I served as campaign manager from December 2008 to August 2009? was committing the career-ending ?gaffe? of getting busted by the FBI. This alone would not be news. It is a rite of passage for Hudson County mayors to host an undercover FBI agent armed with an irresistible sack of hard cash in Town Hall during your first week in office. Most mayors wait a few months before clenching their trembling fists over the bribes or make their underlings do the sordid work. A select few never take the money. Former Hoboken mayor Peter Cammarano eagerly stepped into the obvious mousetrap his first week in office, or so the jury decided.

RELATED: Trashing Obama: The First Sign Cory Booker May Have What It Takes To Unseat Chris Christie

To his credit, Roque has yet to get caught accepting literal moneybags in exchange for favors. Instead, he was arrested for allegedly hacking into the website of an opponent attempting to put into motion a recall vote against him, and allegedly threatening those who established the website. The mayor and his son appeared in court clad in undershirts, and Roque told the FBI that he ?would not have a problem with serving time in jail because he would work out and read while there.?

Seeing your former boss on Politico, in an article linked to on Drudge?or in the New York Times, in an article linked to at Gizmodo? is not what anyone should call a victory. Without a well-oiled campaign machine (of which I was, unfortunately, a part), no one would have bought into this area doctor?s capacity to run a local government. On the other hand, my last words as campaign manager so many years ago were ?you?re going to end up in jail if you keep acting like this,? so the news isn?t exactly unexpected.

Fresh out of college, I helped organize a recall against then-Mayor Sal Vega, a nefarious character who had raised property taxes to make up for lost state money. A key reason for the financial woes? He had challenged the incumbent state senator for his seat and lost, not only spending many months partially ignoring his job as mayor, but leaving the state of West New York?s representation in the New Jersey Legislature hanging in the balance. Vega was a mess and an easy target, the sort of politician who once managed to insult Cuban political prisoners, American war veterans, and the entire children?s population of West New York in one day (he tried to cancel their respective parades, as revenge on his political enemies). It was not difficult to convince the 45,000 residents of West New York that things couldn?t be worse under any alternative, including this random doctor who, having gotten bored with his office job, decided it was time to move into Town Hall.

NEXT PAGE: The Recall Campaign That Turned Dr. Roque Into Mayor Roque

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