BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Democratic Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia has been denied his party’s endorsement for the upcoming primary scheduled for Tuesday, June 7. In his place, Bloomfield Democratic Chairman Peter Stromolo has given Councilman Joe Lopez the party line for the mayoral run.
Councilwoman Nina Davis and Councilman Carlos Pomares, who, along with Lopez, were part of Venezia’s winning ticket three years ago, have also been dropped from the party line. However, Venezia, Davis and Pomares will run on the same slate in the primary.
Venezia said a third candidate for council will be announced to fill out the slate. If he does not prevail in the primary, Venezia said he will not run as an independent candidate in November.
In a telephone interview last week, Venezia said he knew why he and his running mates were dropped by Stromolo.
“He feels he can’t control us as much as he would like and decided to go into a different direction,” Venezia said.
Venezia said Stromolo might point to the controversy over Councilman Elias Chalet as the reason for dropping him from the line.
“But he’s been thinking of throwing us off the line since November 2014,” Venezia said. “He wants to control the council. He doesn’t get everything he wants.”
Chalet was indicted last month for bribery in an official capacity. He remains active on the council, having refused Venezia’s request to resign. In addition, Town Hall records, since Jan. 1, 2011, have been subpoenaed by the NJ Office of the Attorney General. Venezia took office, as a councilman, at that time. Chalet became a councilman the following January.
Venezia said Stromolo had offered him the mayoral line on the Democratic ticket, but he would have to replace Davis and Pomares, adding, “Basically, I would have been a puppet mayor. I could understand if they weren’t good. Councilwoman Davis is the first black Bloomfield councilwoman.”
According to Venezia, he was offered the line by Stromolo in late September 2015.
“But not with my team that’s been doing good things for three years,” he said. “I told him ‘no.’”
The mayor said it was about six weeks ago that he learned he’d been dropped.
“I wasn’t getting support from the Bloomfield Democrat Party,” he said. “They were sending out invitations to their kick-off and I wasn’t invited.”
The Democratic headquarters kickoff, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, officially announced the party slate for the primary. Venezia said he understood it was mentioned at that event that he was tied to the pitfall of Chalet’s troubles.
Stromolo did not wish to be interviewed for this story. A letter to the editor, explaining his decision to drop Venezia, appears in this newspaper. The Democratic headquarters is located on Broad Street just south of Brookside Park.
Davis said she was disappointed about being dropped.
“I feel we have a strong record which merited support from the party,” she said in an interview earlier this week. “I knew there was some tension and rumors that other people were going to get the line.”
Davis said she wanted to meet with Stromolo to discuss the matter but that did not occur.
“The bottom line: We were independent Democrats,” she said to explain the loss of party support. “My understanding is that this was not appreciated. The evidence is we’re not on the line.”
But Davis acknowledged that she was never told to do anything in her capacity as a councilwoman. If there were expectations of her, she figures they just were not met.
In a telephone interview earlier this week, Pomares said the party stopped communicating with him and his two running mates more than a year ago.
“It was pretty much when we were trying to outsource the engineering department,” he said. “Since then, the party has been disconnected from us.”
The council discussed outsourcing the engineering department in 2014, but dropped the idea.
Last year, Pomares said the Bloomfield Democratic Party held a celebration honoring the mayor. He and Davis were not invited, and neither was Venezia.
“How do you honor someone and not invite them?” Pomares asked.
But the councilman thinks the Venezia slate will be victorious in the primary.
“Our collected body of work speaks for itself,” he said.
Lopez, in a telephone interview, said he was not surprised Venezia did not get the party line, saying, “The chairman cannot take a risk with someone who is not speaking out against corruption in Town Hall.”
Lopez said it was mentioned at the kickoff that he had asked publicly for Chalet’s resignation but the mayor and council were silent.
Venezia said there is plenty of Democratic support for him to continue as Bloomfield mayor and that he was saddened the upcoming primary took the direction it did.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said, “but one person is making the decision.”
“Lopez…said he was not surprised Venezia did not get the party line, saying, “The chairman cannot take a risk with someone who is not speaking out against corruption in Town Hall.”
When it comes self serving comments, that one is right up there with “when did you stop beating your wife?”
Here’s a reality-based translation…
“Lopez…said he was not surprised Venezia did not get the party line, saying, “The chairman cannot take a risk with someone who is not under party control in Town Hall.”