New Jersey Democratic State Committee and Passaic County Chairman John Currie this afternoon reacted to a PolitickerNJ report that a number of Democratic county chairs are preparing for a meeting next week to assess the gubernatorial primary election scheduled for June of 2017.
“I am disappointed that some members of the Democratic Party are not focusing on the current election cycle,” said Currie. “It is important to focus on victories up and down the ballot, from Hillary Clinton and Josh Gotthiemer to countless other candidates throughout our state.
“A meeting that does not include Chairman Stellato, Chairman Prieto, me and other chairs, is not only counterproductive, but harmful to our party,” added the state party chairman. “This is not the time to hold a meeting, which has the potential to tear our party apart. I have spoken to several chairs, who share my beliefs and in the best interest of Democratic unity in 2016, will not be attending this event.”
The mention of Stellato, Prieto and Currie as those chairs who did not get an invite carries a large dose of political intrigue, as the meeting is the handicraft of the allies of South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross and powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones and Union County Democratic Chairman Jerry Green in particular are said to have real concerns about the implications of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka backing the gubernatorial candidacy of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Norcross and DiVincenzo are positioned to support Fulop’s arch rival, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), as part of a statewide primary effort fundamentally built on a South Jersey-Essex County alliance.
As long as Sweeney stays in, South Jersey will back him.
But Essex is more complex.
DiVincenzo leans Sweeney.
But Baraka backs Fulop, and former Governor Dick Codey and Essex Freeholder Brendan Gill support former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy.
Then there are the three North Jersey chairs, himself included, whom Currie notes in his statement.
All three are reported to lean toward Fulop.
Certainly Hudson County Democratic Chairman Vincent Prieto leans Fulop. He’s the chairman of the Jersey City mayor’s home county. Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato has real political motivation to oppose Norcross, who didn’t support the Democratic chair’s 2014 county executive candidate.
Stellato’s expected to lean Fulop, but it’s fluid, and, as in Essex, different power players project different alliances.
As for Currie, the state party chairman, has stayed out of gubernatorial politics, routinely eschewing questions about whom he supports. But he and Stellato are close, and regularly join forces on decisions. Their omission from the invite list is telling if the anticipated divisions in the developing gubernatorial contest are indeed real.
In another demonstration of how a key county lacks 2017 solidity, the Murphy campaign has worked Passaic aggressively. Paterson Ward Six star Andre Sayegh is said to predisposed to back Murphy. And a key Fulop ally, Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, appears politically wobbly in the face of a News 4 investigation into his administration.