WAYNE – They filed in here to the Grand Chalet, party members and pooh-bahs, rank and filers and nail filed hard nosers, ready for a rumble and finding one in the form of Scott Heck versus John Traier.
This was supposed to be a peaceful affair in which everyone left the tomahawks at home and basked in the collective glow of pyramid-shaped chandeliers.
Instead, two sides quickly rose on either side of the chalet like a casting call for West Side Story.
Assemblyman Scott Rumana – soon to be the former chairman – stood solidly behnd his candidate, John Traier, at the entranceway to the banquet hall.
“I didn’t approach him, he approached me,” Rumana told PolitickerNJ.com. “We were a group of concerned party members when we saw the deal was falling apart.”
The deal Rumana referred to included Rumana’s agreement to step aside, back burner longstanding strife with GOP Strong strongman Peter Murphy of Totowa, and stand behind Heck.
But Rumana worried later about Murphy concentrating too much power in the absence of the Rumana era and, cutting out from Heck, backed Traier.
“I never said I would step aside for his surrogate,” Heck told PolitickerNJ.com. “I said I would stand aside if Scott wanted to run again.”
Heck stood in the doorway of the chalet with Felix Garcia, the former GOP candidate for county sheriff.
In the big carpeted room the absence of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell was palpable. Yes, Pascrell’s a Democrat. But this is Wayne. This was Pascrell territory for 16 years and now he’s gone, redistricted into Bergen and at the beck and call of a new constituency.
A Bergen source told PolitickerNJ.com that Pascrell would be at the Bergen County Democratic Committee restructuring tonight, where Chairman Lou Stellato faces no opposition.
Left behind was this north Passaic minority party where the congressman built under the radar alliances and where part of a grumbled GOP ambition was the hope to build something bigger than simply a back channel to Pascrell.
One source in the room, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that wing of the party with Rumana and Traier continues to worry about Murphy’s influence over Heck.