Us vs. Them

The 4th Ward Race is a microcosm of a larger Hoboken tug-o-war

Joe Concha

The 3rd round of the 4th Ward City Council Race, which now enters its 11th month of hard campaigning, is no longer a matter that concerns the issues. In short, it is a personal grudge match between two candidates that represent—with few exceptions—two distinct groups of a small section in 1.3 square mile town.

On one side there are those who support former incumbent Chris Campos, a 30-year-old single lawyer born and raised in Hoboken who gained office at age 24 fresh out of law school. On the other are those who back Dawn Zimmer, 39, a family portrait photographer originally from New Hampshire who moved to Hoboken five years ago with her husband and two children.

BNR (born and raised) is a dirty acronym around certain parts of Hoboken. The term generally has a negative connotation, and if reading between the letters, more or less means “not college educated”, “too entrenched to make something of themselves to get out of town” and in some cases, “corrupt”. A BNR allegedly hates all newcomers to town, who, similar to the way locals view Bennys at the shore, believes that yuppies and spoiled young adults who rent or buy here are doing so only for the short term to work in New York and get drunk here on weekends. The minute they meet someone and get married, they’ll sell off the property or finish out their rental leases…thereby leaving behind little to no contribution to Hoboken. In the process, a non- BNR will treat all others condescendingly and wish they never existed.

Many BNRs exist in the HHA on the southwest side of town, which also happens to exist in the 4th Ward. With few exceptions, all support Chris Campos not because of his accomplishments during his six years on the city council, but because he isn’t one of them. Them, of course, means being someone like Dawn Zimmer, who has lived in town during a shorter period of time than Campos has been in office.

They believe that she’ll only fight for those who aren’t them…the people who make them feel inferior by driving nice cars and living in apartments out of a Pottery Barn catalog. The same folks who eat at Teak and Trinity. The ones who travel to their summer chateaus on hot summer days. The yuppies who would pay to have the Hoboken Housing Authority fenced in like a Palestinian territory if they had the ability to do so.

This race really is a Tale of Two Cities.

The Zimmer support comes from those who can’t stand the fact that their young adult utopia called Hoboken needs to be shared with those who couldn’t afford to live here even if they won a Pick-5 lottery. According to them, the lesser people who back Campos are also the ones responsible for all of Hoboken’s crime. They are the ones who don’t belong here and most certainly don’t deserve someone of their ilk representing them on the City Council. They’re like the Sunnis in Iraq: They fear the Shia—in this case, Zimmer—won’t protect them if she gains office. They’ll slowly be forgotten, left to dwindle away in the projects while the gentrification of Hoboken eventually squeezes them out altogether.

So while very few people will say it, the 4th Ward race is really a steel-cage match for what Hoboken used to represent—a family-oriented blue collar town—versus the new Hoboken that is more Wall Street than Main Street.

It’s not even clear if the candidates want the power to change things more than the ability to pull an Eric Cartman on the loser after the election (“Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah! I beat you two out of three times. … Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh!). It’s beyond personal now. Zimmer has spent $40,000 out of her own pocket when she could have challenged Campos’ allegations of voter fraud in court instead of agreeing to a do-over.

It’s almost like Zimmer said, “You know what? I know I’m better than you. I know I’m smarter and nothing would give me more satisfaction than to beat your sorry ass again. Forget the fact my family and volunteers will need to be dragged into another campaign for two months. I’m like Wild Thing in Major League: Here’s my fastball. You know its coming. And guess what, you still won’t be able to come close to touching it.”

For Campos, his loathing is aimed partly at Zimmer simply because she has proved to be more than a worthy adversary. But the majority of his drive appears to have manifested from his focus on a media and message board campaign that has stepped on his throat (and other body parts) more than any politician in Hoboken history.

Need proof? Just check out the message boards sometime. For the past nine months, you couldn’t go on there without reading about Campos’ DUI arrest or how corrupt or uneducated they believe he is. Hoboken411, the living, breathing, and paid-for infomercial for the Zimmer campaign, has showcased message board posts and stories by its owner that have been equally obsessed in all-things Campos past the point of being ludicrous.

So here’s how things will work on election Tuesday: If Campos wins, the aforementioned message boards and biased community blogs will explode with allegations of voter intimidation and voter fraud by “sources” likely affiliated with the Zimmer campaign. You’ll read about paid off campaign workers, “gangs in red shirts” surrounding polling stations, etc.

If Zimmer wins, the whole election-day process will be portrayed as honest and upstanding with few problems. It will be declared a day when flooding problems will eventually cease to exist in Hoboken, mostly thanks to Zimmer making the issue a top priority in Hoboken after being relatively ignored. And for shits and giggles, there will be some parting shots for Campos that will resemble the ones Yankee fans gave A-Rod last week for opting out of his contract.

If the vote is close, and given that eight votes decided the last election it will be, neither candidate will concede until all votes are re-counted and all addresses of voters are confirmed. In other words, we won’t have an official winner until 2008.

This election has not been about a message of hope, but a message of hate.

The BNRs vs. the Yuppies

The carpetbagger vs. the-hometown-boy-done-good

Rich vs. Poor

White vs. Non-white

Hot 97 vs. PLJ

An election about anything but open space, crime and real estate development…