Up against a politically and geographically connected frontrunner, Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) this week continues to call assembly people in the Democratic caucus in an effort to secure backing for the speakership, according to party sources.
A veteran legislator and former Democratic state party chair, Watson Colemannaturally headed a short-list ofsuccessors to retiring Speaker Joe Roberts (D-Camden).
Butthe Mercer County product'sdifficulty in a state controlled by powerful political fiefdoms is she hails from a county that is the Democratic Party equivalent of Somerset.
If the measure included time in the trenches and advocacy of progressive party causes, she lookedtracked to becomethe Assembly's first African American woman speaker.
Butthat wasbefore Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) abruptly emerged this fall as part of anorth-south senate/assembly deal engineered in large part by George Norcross III of South Jersey, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, and Union County power-brokering swing man state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth).
Cognizant of the majority caucus support onthe recordin favor of Oliver, whose North Jersey success dovetails with Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney's (D-West Deptford) South Jersey counterweight, Watson Coleman is seeking a silent ballot on Nov. 23rd, when the senate and assembly both convene to consider new leaders for both houses.
"Bonnie is a friend of mine who has been very supportive of me," said DiVincenzo, who, once he backed Oliver for speaker, triggered the powerfulEssex County Democratic Organization, in tandem with South JErsey's organization,to get behind the East Orange legislator and shut down Watson Coleman.
"I toldBonnie right out if Codey can't thevotes in his caucus and Sweeney was going to be the next senate presdient,that I would have to make sure Essex County has leadership," added the Essex County Democrat."That's a fact of life."