In what might be a prelude to the 2011 Democratic primary, there are contested races for all 26 seats on the Hawthorne Democratic County Committee, where State Sen. John Girgenti is the Municipal Chairman. There has been considerable speculation that Girgenti will face a challenge for his Senate seat next year – he angered progressive Democrats with his vote against marriage equality, and African American and Latino leaders have been eyeing the seat in a district where there are more blacks and Hispanics than whites.
The 26 candidates are running off the line in the “Democrats for Hawthorne” Banner, and has the support of the lone Democratic Councilman, Joe Wojtecki, and former Passaic County Freeholder Lois Cuccinello Girgenti is not a candidate for a County Committee seat.
“About the only people not supporting our slate are Girgenti’s relatives and ‘employees’ – including the multiple Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission employees who owe their jobs to the Senator’s generosity with our tax money,” Jeff Gardner, a former Girgenti campaign manager who is running on the renegade slate, wrote in a post on BlueJersey.com. “Rather than embrace the increased interest in Democratic organizing this brings to Hawthorne, Girgenti is lashing out, upset that anyone would dare challenge him. He’s quoted in the local paper, basically accusing us of being liberal extremists, and blaming others for his own record of failure as Hawthorne’s Democratic leader.”
Gardner said Girgenti “nearly came unglued at the opening of Sheriff Gerald Speziale’s campaign headquarters last Saturday. “He refused to stand next to our only elected Democratic councilman, whose wife is running on our slate. Not very Senatorial. And more importantly, not how a democratic leader should behave in public,” said Gardner. We’re braced for much worse behavior than that – money can pay for all sorts of nastiness, and Girgenti has tons of money to spend. But in the end, this is a campaign to organize Democrats in a town that has been voting Republican for far too long, too often with the Senator’s help.”