Two State Senators who have remained loyal to Richard Codey (D-Roseland) are likely nearing the end of the legislative careers, according to several Democratic insiders. As a white man representing a district where Latinos and African Americans outnumber whites, John Girgenti (D-Hawthorne) has been at risk of losing party support for the last few years. Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-Paterson) asked Passaic County Democrats to consider her for the Senate in 2007, but party leaders backed the re-election of the 62-year-old Hawthorne Democrat who has been in the Legislature since 1977. Latino leaders have been eyeing the 35th district Senate seat as their best opportunity to double their representation in the upper house – from one to two.
Girgenti could either lose party support for another term in the Senate, or mapmakers – if Democrats were to dominate legislative redistricting – could offer him the chance run in a new district, perhaps against Senate Minority Whip Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove).
Some Democrats say the retirement of Senate President Pro-Tempore Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) could come sooner rather than later. If Gov. Jon Corzine wins a second term, Turner – no favorite of the front office – could be offered another post in an effort to clear a path for Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) to go to the Senate. Watson Coleman, popular with Democrats, appears to have gotten the short end of the stick in a legislative leadership deal that will make Sheila Oliver (D-Ewing) the next Assembly Speaker and Joseph Cryan (D-Union) the new Majority Leader. Watson Coleman is also a contender for a cabinet post in a second Corzine administration.
If Turner completes her turn and Watson Coleman remains in the Assembly, there is a good chance that Turner will get nudged into retirement in two years so that Watson Coleman can move up to the Senate then.
There is some talk that Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford), if he becomes Senate President, will replace Turner as Senate Education Committee chair, possibly with Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), whose political mentor, Stephen Adubato, Sr., has considerable interest in education-related issues.