SPRING LAKE – A crust of politicians, BlackBerry-armed operatives and their ilk crowded into the Breakers this morning to gauge who’s up and who’s down on a gritty bipartisan terrain ebulliently presided over by North Ward Democratic leader Steve Adubato.
These events function according to Adubato’s obdurate sense of the theatrical. Suggestion must be read as symbol and symbol should be interpreted as the future.
With that in mind and amid buzz regarding the particular future of Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), East Orange, Adubato loudly threw Oliver off her oratorical stride when she started to address the room of mostly ragged Italian and rumpled kilt kin in a high-browed tone.
“Only two minutes,” Adubato erupted to laughter.
Oliver spoke about two or three more full sentences before she stepped to the side of the microphone into a hastily orchestrated bear hug by Adubato, who scrambled up to the podium and told the crowd he and Oliver had once worked together as social workers.
“She’s done, she’s in an untenable position,” muttered a Newark operative and Oliver ally a day after the speaker had her fundraiser at Nanina’s in the Park where some interpreted her remarks as a battle cry.
But if Oliver radiated no grip on her seat of power, Gov. Chris Christie had a prominently situated Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, state Sen. Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., (R-21), Westfield, and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, (R-13), Middletown, in the room, among a few others.
Guadagno made no effort to be funny.
The former prosecutor praised the annual event’s honoree, attorney Michael Critchley, and, with a grin, lapped up an introductory remark by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
“I was not Gov. Christie’s first choice to be lieutenant governor,” said DiVincenzo, noted Democratic Party ally of the GOP governor. “But if Gov. Christie runs for president, I would like to be Kim Guadagno’s lieutenant governor.”
With past emcee Steve Adubato, Jr. absent from the event as he helms the Christie-Adubato engineered NJTV, the next generation of North Ward torch bearers got more microphone time, most notably Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin.
“Former Gov. Brendan Byrne couldn’t make it,” said the clerk, “and so for his substitute we decided to forgo humor and go with good looks.”
He called Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, (D-6), Voorhees, to the podium, and the gelatin-haired South Jersey fixture leaped above a crowd of other much whispered gubernatorial hopefuls that included state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, (D-18), Metuchen, State Party Chairman John Wisniewski, (D-19), Sayreville, and Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford.
Unsurprisingly, no one stuck a microphone in the hand of Buono, who’s been fiercely critical of much of the agenda championed and shoved through by the Christie/Essex/South Jersey triumvirate.
For his part, Greenwald gambled, approaching power with a confrontational stance.
“Sit down, old man,” ordered the assemblyman, complaining about the lack of South Jersey iconography in a room decked out with easels of enduring inner circle faces, including that of DiVincenzo, and former State Party Chairman Ray Durkin.
Adubato made a big mugging show of going up to the front of the room and posing with Greenwald and Sweeney for a photo that Greenwald said he wanted on display at the next North Ward Center event.
Pointing out to the Newark boss that he’s not Jewish, as he said Adubato mistakenly has surmised in the past, but proudly Italian Catholic, Greenwald proceeded to stay on the attack.
“He’s always talking about my heritage or my hair,” said Greenwald, who then offered to allow Adubato to muss up his famously perfect Jack Lord pompadour if the boss agreed to donate money to Critchley’s favorite charity.
Adubato approached the podium with what looked like a bandana swiped from a shoe shine box and lunged at the taller, younger man, giving the brilliantine dome a good mangling and leaving the assemblyman’s face momentarily obscured.
When Greenwald at last emerged, shock ensued.
The assemblyman’s smiling, victorious face appeared under a head of hair almost completely, miraculously in place: a marble-like mold of unfrazzled, photo-shoot-ready repose.
Durkin later went after Olympian Carl Lewis.
“You know, we invited Carl Lewis and he was going to be here, but then Kim Guadagno called and said she didn’t want him on the list,” said the emceee, referring to the LD 8 state Senate canddiate banned from the general election ballot by Guadano in her role as secretary of state.
The lieutenant governor assessed that Lewis did not establish legal residence in New Jersey sufficient to run for Senate.
“We went back and forth,” added Durkin. “First he was on then he was off.”
They decided finally to leave Lewis on the guest list.
“But he couldn’t make it because he missed a flight from his hometown of Santa Barbara, California,” Durkin cracked.
State Sen. Kevin O’Toole, (R-40), Cedar Grove, took his time at the front of the room to ding his old foe, former Acting Gov. Dick Codey, who wasn’t in the room.
O’Toole said he was at a Korean American event last night and someone in the crowd asked him if he had read Codey’s memoir, “Me, Governor?”
O’Toole said he hadn’t, then related how he learned that the Korean translation of the book was “Me, former Governor, now-I’m-a-back-bencher-who-made-millions-in-the-insurance-business?” prompting laughter among Adubato partisans and groans and embittered silence from the corners of Codey defenders.
Assemblyman Tom Giblin, (D-34), Montclair, sang “Irish Soldier Boy” to honor the dead, and the crowd of jaded allies and rivals enjoyed the presence of enough habited human shields speckled throughout the room to offset whatever political sins abided: inner city nuns.
Some others seen in the room:
U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, (D-13); state Sen. Bob Singer, (R-30); state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, (D-29); Assemblyman Gary Schaer, (D-36); Newark Council President Donald Payne Jr.; Newark Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif; Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos; South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcoss; and Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore.
“There are no Democrats or Republicans, there are only r.o. – registered opportunists,” a grateful Critchley deadpanned to cackles.
Click the link below to see photos of Adubato and Greenwald…