Mayor Thomas Vezzetti, the bootlegger's son who took to the streets with a bullhorn to win elections and fight the gentrification of this Hudson River city, died early Wednesday. He was 59.
Vezzetti, a lifelong bachelor, was said to have been angered by the outcome of a special election Tuesday in the 5th Ward. A councilman who frequently criticized Vezzetti's policies won a special election over a candidate Vezzetti had supported.
Before Vezzetti's election to public office, he had developed a reputation as an eccentric, sometimes wearing mismatched shoes, orange pants and a Hawaiian shirt. His face was often unshaved and he sometimes carried his belongings in two paper bags.
He took a bullhorn in 1982 and walked up and down Washington Street, the city's main artery, to announce that he was challenging the City Council president in the next election.
He won, and then used the tactic against Mayor Steve Cappiello in 1985, hitting on the theme of stopping yuppies from sweeping the working and middle-class people out of the city of 42,000 across the Hudson from Manhattan.
"If you want to stay in Hoboken, vote for me," he often said.
He forced Cappiello into a runoff, and the mayor questioned Vezzetti's mental competence and wardrobe.
"Clothes do not make the man," Vezzetti said in a campaign debate.
And he beat the three-term mayor in a major upset.