On this Saturday, as the party wound down in a West Long Branch restaurant and the unanimously approved Legislative candidates headed for the parking lot, Victor V. Scudiery looked placid.
But the Chairman of the Monmounth County Democratic Party was in battle mode.
He likes his party's chances here in a county long dominated by his adversaries, where the GOP strategy is to go after the Democratic record on property taxes. Last week in their own ritual of Saturday morning fluorescence, the Republicans – one candidate after another – stationed him or herself before a microphone and did the GOP version of raging against the machine.
Scudiery says state government under Democratic Party rule is doing its best to straighten out a fiscal mess – while sandwiched between a GOP party at the national level wallowing in a misbegotten war, and a Republican "good old boys network" mismanaging money at the county level.
Even if Monmouth County voters want to pin everything on Trenton, Scudiery still figures he's up, 2-1.
"There's more selfishness in the Republican Party," he said. "Don't tell me you can send billions of dollars to Iraq, and not provide healthcare for people."
"The county's responsible for 30 percent of people's property taxes," put in Michael W. Mangan, who sits on the party's board of directors.
"Exactly," said Scudiery. "And when you're talking about high taxes, you're talking about taxes across the board. You're talking about increases in car insurance and homeowner's insurance. I got a gas bill last month. You know what it was? It was $1,400. That's a lot of money. That's like a second mortgage. The electric bill is like $600.
"So whenever the Republicans start talking about property taxes, you have to start talking about everything else."
Mangan said at least Gov. Jon Corzine and the Democratic majority in Trenton are engaging key issues.
"Property taxes are connected to the way we fund our schools, and Democrats are trying to work that out," he said. "Everyone's saying Trenton's doing such a terrible job, but they're working on it."
"When Corzine was elected, people expected changes in a couple of weeks," said Scudiery. "Look, these changes have to come across the board, and they don't happen over night. Take healthcare. I've got 30 employees, and I cover them. But with the way things are going, there's going to come a time when I can't afford it anymore. These are problems we need to solve, and the Democrats are putting forward the solutions to these real-life problems."
The immediate problem is an election year, and though Scudiery admits to cringing now and agan when he sees a Republican blog featuring, in his view, some twisted representation of himself or those close to him, he calmly says he has the incentive to win.