ATLANTIC CITY – A tormented Democratic legislature did its best to grin through the bandages Thursday night at a party thrown at the Borgata by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford).
Even former Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) attended, sitting in a crowd that included the Essex County Joe DiVincenzo contingent (state Sen Teresa Ruiz and chief of staff Phil Alagia), Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen), state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden), state Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn), and state Sen.-elect Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro).
Hudson County Democratic Committee Chairman (and Bayonne Mayor) Mark Smith did his best to project hearty goodwill into a room rent in fragments by the era of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Caught on the Codey side of the Codey-Sweeney divide last year, state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge) and state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrenceville) paid their respects to the senate president, and so did Sweeney backers state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic City) and state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair).
These were members of a caucus that on Sept. 30th found itself divided on whether or not to subpoena former Education Commissioner Bret Schundler; a caucus that witnessed a chilled edge between Sweeney and state Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-Union City) in the aftermath.
Stack had been an important ally of Sweeney’s and helped turn the dominoes against Codey in 2009. Now the Union City powerhouse chafed under what he thought were Sweeney’s bullying tactics on the subpoena bill.
Following a blowup between the men, Sweeney tried to call Stack but the men didn’t connect, and didn’t try especially hard after that, mutually wounded, say sources – but the caucus attempted cohesion tonight over drinks and a backdrop of Atlantic City ribaldry, even though one of them couldn’t resist on observation, “What a motley crew we are.”