When you pick the wrong horse in a harsh political battle, paybacks in politics are often extraordinarily difficult. That’s what New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech is finding out, now that he is “persona non grata” with Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts and the extended Roberts political organization.
The Star-Ledger’s The Auditor had an important report on the Roberts/Wowknech feud last Sunday, and since that print version of that column sometimes differs from the online version, here are some excerpts worth noting, especially considering the players involved:
“If Charles Wowkanech, New Jersey’s AFL-CIO director, seems to have a dark cloud following him around, there’s a reason — he’s been having a bit of a rough go of it lately.
There was the loud and public slapdown from state Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) at a committee hearing after Wowkanech told him a bill to provide workers with paid leave to take care of family members would be “good for his people,” a phrase Rice made clear he found offensive.
Then there’s the seemingly unmendable fence between Wowkanech and the South Jersey Democratic organization. The Auditor was told Wowkanech offered Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts a $25,000 campaign donation, hoping to make peace with the Camden Democrat.
Wowkanech and Carla Katz, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1034, declared war against Roberts and the South Jersey Democrats by backing two South Jersey Republican candidates in the November legislative elections. (They both lost by convincing margins.) Now, Wowkanech is persona non grata to Roberts, power broker George Norcross, and as someone close to Roberts puts it, “the entire South Jersey telephone book.”
Wowkanech, The Auditor is told, has been trying to make nice, but his calls have not been returned and he hasn’t gotten past Roberts’ office reception area. A Roberts ally confirmed there was no direct contact between Roberts and Wowkanech: the check rejection came through one of Roberts’ fund-raising staffers.
Though he declined to comment to The Auditor, Roberts is said to have told one of Wowkanech’s lieutenants he considered the labor leader irrelevant,and “he can keep his money.” A close associate of Roberts said, “Joe is still livid and personally offended.”
Wowkanech did not respond to a request for comment.”