The conquered revolutionary band led by former Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-20) trudged grimly into the Statehouse today, a destination that might as well have been their ready-made Kilmannan Jail.
It was over. All the organizing, phone calling, alliance building – finished in the face of one public word laid out there for the press.
“Unanimous,” came the proclamation from leadership that all Assembly Democrats backed a two-year return for Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34).
But Cryan and his allies, including – and he was critical in the aftermath here- Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27), and 11 others – 13 total, the “Lucky 13,” they called themselves, wanted to talk to the woman whose political muscle had laid them flat and short-circuited an effort by Cryan – with public sector union backing – to replace Oliver as speaker.
And McKeon in particular wanted to negotiate on a key point.
“In my judgment, the party is best served by a unified caucus,” McKeon told PolitickerNJ.com. “Our request was that bills not be posted without the support of 41 caucus members.”
Shortly before the Democratic caucus formally supported Oliver for another two years, the speaker agreed to meet the 13 party members.
On a request by McKeon, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-8) and State Party Chairman John Wisniewski (D-17) left the room.
The outcast caucus members wanted to deal with Oliver alone.
The door closed on the heels of Greenwald and Wisniewksi.
It was just the speaker, Cryan, McKeon, Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Assemblywoman Linda Stender, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, Assemblyman-elect Tim Eustace, and Assemblyman Dan Benson.
McKeon said Lucky 13 wanted Oliver to respect the caucus. They want her to respect the fact that they’re a bloc, and to work with them before mining Republican votes to build a majority. The other members contributed to the argument. Christie’s been dismantling the Democrats piece by piece. Why undermine Obama and give Christie a platform to run around the country bragging about bipartisanship?
Sources said if those 13 members wanted to hold onto their committee chairmanships, leadership – not Oliver but others – made it clear they needed to be “team players.”
But McKeon got confirmation that Oliver wouldn’t post bills unless she had the 41 votes from the Assembly Democratic Caucus.
Sources said there be may occasions when the caucus is unable to reach that number and would have to rely on the GOP, but the losing team wanted to make certain that Oliver and her allies confer with them first and include them in the process.
After the meeting, the lead organizer, Cryan, who raised $3 million to overthrow Oliver, prepared himself for the long walk to the back of the chamber, a former state party chair turned back bencher.
But the new group, Lucky 13, chuckled through gritted teeth as they filed out, figuring, at the very least, having lost, their little band had one more member than Norcross’s delegation of 12.
The concretized party power structure laughed that off, saying the 13-member group is fragile at best. Most of the members were innocents caught up in a battle not of their own making and won’t suffer retribution.