Leadership Fights

The campaign season in New Jersey doesn’t end on November 7th, and there may be at least three good races to watch before the middle of January. If Jon Corzine wins election as Governor, the very best is likely to be the free-for-all insider contest for his Senate seat. Add to that several potential leadership fights in the Legislature. On the Democratic side, Joseph Roberts seems to be the odds-on favorite to become the next Assembly Speaker (Albio Sires is stepping down after four years, and is hoping to go to Congress if Bob Menendez runs for U.S. Senate), but there is still a contest to succeed Roberts as Majority Leader. Insiders say the man to beat is Wilfredo Caraballo, an Essex County Democrat who would become the second Hispanic to hold a top legislative leadership post). Caraballo claims to have the votes, but that hasn’t stopped other contenders — Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (the Democratic State Chairwoman) and Assistant Majority Leader Neil Cohen from backing off. A third Majority Leader candidate, Loretta Weinberg, is presently contesting her one-vote loss in a State Senate special election convention. (A woman has not held a top legislative leadership post since Marion West Higgins was Speaker in 1965, and a Democratic woman never has.) Both Republican leaders might face challenges: Anthony Bucco, who served as Co-Majority Leader from 2002 to 2004, is reportedly eyeing a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance; and several Republicans are looking at contesting a second term for Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, especially if the GOP loses seats this November. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Wayne Bryant has already discussed a possible challenge to Majority Leader (and Hudson County Democratic Chairman) Bernard Kenny with several of his colleagues. The mother of all contests could potentially come on the Senate Democratic side, where Richard Codey will seek to return as Senate President after more than a year as both a Senate boss and Acting Governor. A successful challenge to Codey seems unlikely, especially while the Essex County Democrat maintains huge approval ratings statewide, but it wouldn’t be the first time a Governor-elect seeks to involve himself in legislative leadership matters — or in Senate politics. A possible scenario could be the appointment of Codey to the United States Senate (does Jon Corzine really want his predecessor at his Trenton table?) and a contest for the Senate Presidency between Kenny and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Adler. (If Corzine does send Codey to the U.S. Senate and not Menendez, does that mean he’ll need to assure Kenny the Senate Presidency to pacify angry Hudson Democrats?)

Leadership Fights