NEWARK – Here we go.
The train heads out of Brick City into the bombed-out lunar landscape, passing Third World workers struggling with shovels amid packed together, snowed over suburban hovels and the handfuls of pressed-together lobbyists and North Jersey elected officials take their seats or head for the bar.
“It’s a combination of the snow and the year,” rationalizes one insider in the stillness.
There goes Michael Aron and a news camera to capture the drama.
Snow isn’t all that’s paralyzed the mood. Redistricting has people on edge, and so does Gov. Chris Christie’s upcoming budget address. Living with Democrats in a $10 billion budget crater, Republicans worry about the impact on legislative races of razor cuts to their districts and the potential for tougher-than-usual contests even if redistricting gives them an edge.
There’s Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) of the volatile 35th District, where Republicans on at least one of their maps dream about chopping North Haledon and Hawthorne off from Paterson. She displays no dismay. Neither does Assemblyman Sam Thompson (R-Old Bridge), shorn off from GOP heartland Monmouth County on some Democratic Party working models.
“I think the district’s going to stay the same,” Thompson says of the 13th.
There’s talk, he admits, of removing Matawan and Holmdel and lumping Thompson’s hometown of Old Bridge in Democratic Party-rule Middlesex. The Middlesex County GOP chairman radiates ease.
Determined to be wound up and aggressively “on,” lobbyists eagerly shake the hands of people they don’t know and try either unsuccessfully or successfully to bend the sour plod.
Caravans of elected officials – Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, Assembly Minority Conference Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos – burrow up the main aisle on their way to the front of the train. More bodies up there, apparently. We’ll head forward.