Gov. Chris Christie heads to a Morris County event on Monday morning for a scheduled breakfast with the LD 27 GOP ticket headed by businessman William Eames.
But the drama here revolves less around this particular race than the political future.
Democratic Party allies of state Sen. (and former Governor) Richard Codey, (D-27), Roseland, interpret the governor’s campaign salvo as a localized High Noon test run to Christie v. Codey 2013.
Few give Eames a shot against the veteran Codey, who possesses the largest campaign war chest among all members of the state Legislature.
But amid buzz about a Codey return to gubernatorial politics, the GOP wants to scuff up the Democrat and prepare the way for a Republican district once Codey retires. To that end, Tea Party primary victor Eames already has received $8,000 from the Republican Senate Majority and last week welcomed Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in to help him campaign.
Now it’s Christie’s turn.
The Republican calculation here is to soften up the LD 27 terrain now for a wealthy 2013 candidate, say sources. The ideal choice of Essex Republicans remains Essex Fells Councilman William Sullivan, the man Eames defeated in the primary.
Two years from now, the establishment GOP wants to land Sullivan and create opportunity for Republicans to pull the district into the win column.
The question for Codey is whether he will fight Sullivan’s conceivably $1 million war chest, retire from politics, or – big decision coming up – …run for governor.
Certainly Codey nurses an especially acute animosity with the South Jersey Democratic Organization and Essex County Executive Joe Divincenzo, co-joined forces that sank him out of leadership, made him a target during the redistricting process, and mutually backed the bulk of Christie’s agenda.
Outside of that power grip, Codey has evidently spent little time shivering.
The former governor has leveraged his record in the executive’s chair with similarly displaced Democrats, highlighted his recent opposition to healthcare and pension benefits cuts that would endear him to public-sector unions in a statewide election and prove a forceful contrast with Christie, and underscored his bipartisan street cred to energize his brand.
On that last point, the Codey campaign’s answer to rumors of an incoming Christie was to trip up the black SUVs with a rumble strip announcement that Codey had locked down more Republican support of his Senate re-election campaign.
Regular cable television appearances, a book tour and continuing alliance building all just amplify the statewide buzz among Norcross/DiVincenzo/Christie-fatigued dispossessed Dems.
Sources say County Democratic organizations in a position to embrace a Codey gubernatorial candidacy include Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, and Morris, and potentially a fractured Essex.
“The campaign for governor begins the day after election day,” said one powerful Democratic Party source.