IRVINGTON, NJ — Although his annual Black Tie Mayor’s Ball at Nanina’s In the Park restaurant in Belleville on Thursday, Sept. 29, was attended by a long list of local elected officials and dignitaries, Mayor Tony Vauss was clear as to the true purpose of the event.
“It’s a time for people who probably normally work day-to-day, that wear uniforms … like our police and fire” personnel, said Vauss on Thursday, Sept. 29. “They look forward to coming out and having a good time and sharing a moment together as a township.”
Among the many who attended were Phil Murphy, the former ambassador to Germany and Goldman Sachs dealmaker — and current presumptive Democratic Party nominee for governor in 2017 — and his wife, who arrived shortly before 11 p.m.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop made headlines Wednesday, Sept. 28, by announcing he would not seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor and endorsed Murphy for the role. Therefore, Murphy’s presence at the ball caused a stir and he seemed to know it.
Missy Balmir, former chief of staff for East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor, was also at the Mayor’s Ball. According to Vauss, Balmir is working with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s possible gubernatorial campaign, and that put Irvington in the middle of the Democratic Party wrangling to determine who will run for governor in 2017. Vauss said this was a good thing.
“Nanina’s In the Park is my place, because this is where I have all my events. This is where I got married, where we had last year’s Mayor’s Ball and this one was bigger and better,” the mayor said. “I think we did well over 600, but I’m going to wait and see what the actual numbers were.
“Candidate for governor Phil Murphy is a great friend. I’m glad he had an opportunity to stop by. He had several events tonight and he came by to say hello to everybody and I appreciate it.”
“We communicate often,” Vauss said, adding, “Like I said, he’s a good friend, along with the other people that are looking to run for governor. We all have great relationships. I’m just looking forward to a Democrat being in the Statehouse.”
The mayor also spoke highly of Fulop although he had withdrawn from the race.
“He’s not only a good friend, I was at his wedding this year when he got married,” Vauss said of the Jersey City mayor.
“I say all politics are local and I really can’t comment on him dropping out of the race, because he was never an official candidate. The only official candidate right now is Phil Murphy. I’m sure there will be others to follow. But until you declare yourself a candidate, you’re not really a candidate for governor.”