Scores of residents packed into a banquet room at the Zin Diner on Paterson Plank Road Tuesday night as the Independent slate of candidates for the fall town council election held their first rally with a blunt critique of the current Democratic majority.
In front of a wide green banner with bold white letters spelling out their campaign slogan, “Take Back Secaucus,” Councilmen Michael Gonnelli, Gary Jeffas and Gary Bueckner, along with the ticket’s 1st and 3rd Ward candidates — Ron Costantino and Bill McKeever — introduced themselves and called for the fall ouster of Mayor Dennis Elwell and his Democratic allies on the town council
“Six months, and Secaucus will be what it used to be,” said Gonnelli, who is challenging Elwell for the mayor’s office.
Jeffas served as emcee for the 45-minute rally and outlined the slate’s campaign for “change” in Secaucus.
The 1st Ward councilman described a “slow erosion of what was going on in town” leading up to 2005, when Gonnelli asked him to run for council on the first “Take Back Secaucus” slate. That bid put Gonnelli and Jeffas on the council in 2006, although a third candidate, Bob Berckes, fell short.
“We need to have Secaucus politics and not Hudson County politics,” said Jeffas.
Bueckner, a 2nd Ward representative who has served on the council for 16 years and is a former ally of Elwell, railed against what he sees as a “pay to play” and “retaliation” culture of the current administration.
“Government is for the people and that’s why we’re here tonight,” said Costantino, an accountant and resident of the town for 32 years with a young family.
McKeever, who has lived in town for 40 years and is a realtor, spoke briefly and said he looked forward to campaigning door to door.
The Independent slate, which has begun the process of getting petitions signed to appear on the fall ballot, will face the winners of the June 2 Democratic primary.
The May 5 rally drew an estimated 300 people after Gonnelli admitted he wondered that afternoon if anyone would show up.