The Hogan political dynasty will continue for a fourth generation in 2021, when John M. Hogan begins his first term as a Northvale councilman.
Hogan is a brand name in this small Bergen County borough of 4,800 people that sits on the New York border. The councilman-elect’s dad, County Clerk John S. Hogan, was an on-again, off-again mayor and councilman here, while his grandfather, John L. Hogan, was elected councilman in 1958 and then served for 10 years as mayor.
The Democratic dynasty stretches back even further. Dennis Hogan — the councilman-elect’s great-grandfather — was a mayor in New York for 15 years.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” said the youngest Hogan, 27. “I’m finally getting a chance to do it.”
The dynasty began in Piermont, a Hudson Valley village where Dennis Hogan was mayor from 1937 until his retirement in 1952. He was a superintendent at a paper mill, and during his mayoral tenure, he oversaw the design and construction of a new town hall. When he retired, the local newspaper called him a natural fit for government, saying, “Was there ever an Irishman transplanted to this side of the Atlantic who didn’t have at least a part of one finger in the business of government?”
His son, John L. Hogan, ran for council in Northvale in 1957 and lost by 85 votes. He won a council seat the next year, was elected mayor in 1964 and was reelected three times. He worked at the time as a salesman for a milk distributor. A 1967 story in The Record referred to his life as a “Horatio Alger story.”
His commitment to the job was evident in the final years of his tenure, when cancer led to a laryngectomy in 1971. He remained mayor — with no speaking voice, a councilman read his mayoral statements during council meetings — and announced a fourth reelection bid before dying in 1974. He was 50.
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His son, John S. Hogan, the current county clerk, said his father never got to see him launch his own political career.
“That’s why I made every mistake in the world,” he said.
This Hogan ran for office first in 1982, at the age of 25. During the campaign, The Record reported that the town’s Republican mayor, John Rooney, briefly removed a portrait of the late John L. Hogan that hung in the borough hall clerk’s office.
“That’s when the war began,” John S. Hogan said. Hogan lost that council race, but won in 1983. That type of pattern continued for years:
- 1986: Hogan elected mayor when Rooney did not seek reelection
- 1990: Hogan loses to Rooney
- 1993: Hogan rejoins the council
- 1994: Hogan runs for mayor and loses to Rooney
- 1995, 1996: Hogan loses bids for freeholder
- 2004: Hogan fails to win a council seat
- 2005: Hogan wins a council seat
- 2006: Hogan defeats Rooney to become mayor again
- 2010: Hogan loses a freeholder race
- 2011: Hogan elected clerk
- 2016: Hogan reelected as clerk
Asked what kept him running campaigns again even after repeated losses, Hogan said he enjoys holding public office.
“Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win again,” he said. “You keep getting up and doing it.”
Election 2020: North Jersey local election results by town
Hogan and Rooney have not faced each other on the ballot in 14 years, but old political wounds remain fresh. Asked what Rooney would say about him now, Hogan said, “He’s not going to say anything good about me.”
Sure enough, reached by phone, Rooney, 81, said Hogan is “full of (expletive)” about his father’s portrait.
“I don’t know what Hogan’s problem is,” Rooney said. “I was really interested to see that his son has a DWI.”
That’s a reference to information shared on flyers during the heated 2020 Northvale council campaign. An anonymous mailer sent to Northvale voters cited John M. Hogan’s 2016 drunken driving arrest and a civil lawsuit that accuses him of not intervening to stop a sexual assault that occurred in his college residence. Others were charged criminally, he was not and the lawsuit remains ongoing.
His dad said the episode illustrates how times have changed since he ran in local campaigns.
“We never, ever, ever got personal like that, like my son’s campaign got,” he said. “It was malicious.”
Northvale Republicans denied involvement in the mailer, which didn’t have the intended effect on voters. John M. Hogan and fellow Democrat Councilman Tom Argiro won 517 votes more than their Republican opponents in the Nov. 3 race, keeping the council in Democratic hands. The councilman-elect will replace Ken Shepard, who did not seek reelection.
The younger Hogan called his election win a “dream come true” and said once he assumes office in January, he wants to control taxes and cut spending. He said he does not feel intimidated following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. If…