The Middlesex County Democratic Committee will choose a new party chairman tonight at the Pines in Edison, someone to take over for former Chair Joe Spicuzzo, who’s up on state bribery charges.
In one corner stands Peter Barnes from Edison. Former FBI guy. Former Assemblyman and chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee. Behind Barnes looms the considerable shadow of state Sen. Bob Smith of Piscataway, a public dime attorney.
In the other corner stands Kevin McCabe of Woodbridge. Political ground-gamer for former Woodbridge Mayor Jim McGreevey. Labor leader with the carpenters’ union. Hulking over McCabe’s shoulder is visible the folded arms presence of Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, former state treasurer.
His allies say Barnes’ strength is he’s a law enforcement man with unimpeachable credentials – just what the party needs while it endures the embarrassment of Spicuzzo’s public trial. McCabe’s people say the 83-year old Barnes may have gravitas but he lacks that youthful exuberance and willpower to galvanize the party. McCabe has the it factor, they say.
Hours before the convention, sources in the party wonder how bloody this contest will get. Will McCabe in his introductory speech call out Smith and his contracts and brand the committee a fading club of dinosaurs in need of regeneration? Will Barnes evoke Gov. Chris Christie, and suggest that McCormac’s alliance with the Republican governor puts the organization in jeopardy?
There are over 1,000 filled committee seats. A McCabe source estimated 20% won’t turn out, and said the younger man has 440 votes in the bank, which in that scenario would be enough to put down Barnes.
Of course, Barnes’s allies don’t see that scenario playing out, and are already mobilizing buses to get the more senior members through the rain – if need be – and to the contest.
The doors at the Pines open at 5 p.m.