Unveiled at his campaign kickoff as a lovable guy with all kinds of warm and fuzzy potential, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez wasn’t long afterwards in sleeves-up beat down mode, according to party insiders.
Menendez allies said too few component pieces of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) turned out for the event, envisioned as a Hudson County unity fest.
PolitickerNJ.com already wrote about the senator’s rift with HCDO Chairman Mark Smith, so no one did too dramatic a double take when Smith didn’t show.
Smith and his confidant, Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, said sources, were tending to a friend in trouble.
Neither received a direct invitation from the powerful U.S. senator, an especially galling lack of protocol considering Smith’s status on paper as captain of the party.
But other absences caused a ripple of whispers through the ranks of good soldiers who did manage to get seen at the event in the Union City gym.
State Sen. Nick Sacco, (D-32), for example, didn’t make it. Nothing personal there, insisted sources. Sacco’s big on Bob – but his dislike of Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack – in whose hometown the event occurred – might have trumped that.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise was a no-show. So were state Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31).
“Where was (Newark Mayor) Cory Booker?” one insider exclaimed.
No one wondered about the absence of perennial establishment outsider Felix Roque, mayor of west New York.
Sources identified the Smith-Menendez showdown over the HCDO’s endorsement of a CD 10 candidate as the chief cause for a chilling effect in some cases. Newark City Council President Donald Payne Jr. appeared along with an avalanche of Essex County establishment players, County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Speaker Sheila Oliver and state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz among them.
Smith and DiVincenzo had experienced some turbulent moments a month ago, forcing Menendez to get involved. Essex wanted Hudson’s backing for Payne, but Smith, feeling strong-armed, went with Gill, infuriating Menendez, who didn’t want an Essex headache in an election year.
The end result was drama, and evidence of hurt feelings by virtue of absence.
“It’s not going to matter,” groaned one insider confident of a performing Hudson when it comes to a general election vote. “Do you really think any of these people are going to vote for Joe Kyrillos?”