On her way to a meeting of the Bergen County Democratic Organization’s executive committee this morning, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said she was worried that the power vacuum in the party couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“This is a time of a little bit of confusion and anarchy at a very bad time, because we’re in the midst of a campaign,” she said. “Now I, among other things, have been quite besieged by telephone calls from very average constituents who want to work for the Obama campaign, and I don’t even know where that’s being operated out of in Bergen County. So there are many issues that need to be discussed and sorted out that are of import to the people we elect come November 4th, and therefore of import to the people we represent. It’s a time of confusion and a very bad and inopportune time.”
Since making those comments, the party did give the chairman’s powers to Vice Chair Kay Nest, who’s holding the position of Acting Chairman while indictment chair Joe Ferriero takes a temporary leave of absence.
But the BCDO, which over the last several years has earned the reputation as a fundraising powerhouse and nearly unstoppable force, is floundering with internal disputes and debt that may not be as easy to repay without Ferriero making the fundraising calls.
Emotions are raw. Nerves are frayed. And the election is in 49 days away.
Ingrid Reed, Director of the Eagleton Institute’s New Jersey Project, said that the party’s troubles may not have much of an effect on the presidential race in New Jersey.
And party insiders point out that Hackensack Municipal Chairwoman Lynne Hurwitz has taken over the responsibility of running the party’s freeholder campaigns.
But Bergen does factor into statewide races in a major way. Even if a fractured BCDO manages to survive this year’s election without a drubbing, the fortunes of the state’s Democratic Party next year could hinge on Bergen.
“Next year with the gubernatorial race and the legislature up, you need to be in a strong position,” said Reed. “So the anarchy — or I would say morass — that you have with not knowing who’s in charge may be a detriment to this year’s election, but it is certainly putting Bergen in jeopardy for next year in playing the role it’s supposed to play as a Democratic Party stronghold.”
The conventional wisdom is that no Republican can win statewide without winning Bergen County. But if the BCDO, which members sometimes refer to as a “family,” continues to be dysfunctional, observers see the possibility of a Republican resurgence there.
“You can’t take a short run view of this like ‘we can make it through.’ That can be dangerous, especially with the party in poor financial state,” said Reed.