Faced with Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) allies fingering him as the culprit behind Codey’s imminent leadership downfall and months away from an election that most observersthought would be a walkover for him, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzohit back tonight.
Codey’s people say the presence of state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) and state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) on a 14-memberrosterbackingSenate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) bidfor Senate President againstCodey proveDiVincenzo wants Codey gone and was only too willing tolend a shoulder tothe South Jersey gang-up.
DiVincenzo says no way.
“If Dick Codey had the votes, we would have been with Dick Codey – we would have supported him,” said the county executive. “He didn’t have the votes! Dick’s done a good job, but he doesn’t have the support of what? – his colleagues.”
You need 12 to win in a 23-member caucus, and DiVincenzo insists Ruiz and Gill were 13 and 14. But Codey allies say they were 12 and 13, and that a highly resistant state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) finally brokeunder pressure last night for Sweeney,and punched in as the 14th Sweeney backer.
DiVincenzo denies it, and denies that a meeting took place last Thursday night in which stymied Sweeney forces told DiVincenzo he’d need to deliver Ruiz and Gill, pronto.
“That’s absurd,” said the county executive. “Look, my whole thing, my slogan, is what? ‘Putting Essex First.’ We could have lost not only the senate presidency but leadership in Trenton. Codey has six votes. If he had the support, I repeat, we would have been there. But he didn’t have the votes. That was my concern.”
Observing no movement toward Codey’s column, DiVincenzo says he turned to the south end of the State House and amped up his support for Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) to serve as speaker – in the interest of preserving a leadership role for Essex.
“I wanted to make sure we had representation. We should be very happy that we will elect the first African-American woman ever to be elected speaker of the Assembly,”said DiVincenzo of the front running candidate forthe job,who right now claims lower house caucus support of colleagues from south and central Jersey. “It’s long overdue.The first black female. Long overdue.”
DiVincenzo pointed out that Codey opposed him twice when DiVincenzoran forEssex County executive.
“What do I do in return? I name asports arena after him,” said an exasperated DiVincenzo.
Stung by commentsmade earlier today by East Orange Mayor Robert Bowser, who backs Codey, DiVincenzo said, “It’s Bob who has his priorities mixed up, not me.Sheila Oliver’s from East Orange – his hometown – and Dick Codey doesn’t have the votes. HereBob is supporting Codey, who doesn’t have the support of his collegaues, and failing to seehow exciting it is to havean African American female speaker – from East Orange!”
As for Bowser’s assertion that Codey landed the dollars for DiVincenzo’s county projects, the executive bristled.
“That wasn’t Codey, that was the governor,” he said, adding, “If anyone is interested in running against me, that’s fine, that’s their right.”