NEW BRUNSWICK – Three men wandered into the Heldrich Hotel.
“Essex has arrived,” declared Ironbound brand name Joe Parlavecchio, longtime leader of the East Ward Democratic Committee.
His protégé, Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-29) had been in the house earlier.
Joining Parlavecchio was veteran Essex County Committee Chairman Phil Thigpen.
CWA Local leader Lionel Leach stepped up beside them.
Other insiders from Essex appeared – state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34), who’s in a primary re-election battle, Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, and Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34).
But at least two big names stayed away: Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
Introduced as the dean of the Congressional delegation and up at the head of the room with gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono and State Party Chairman John Wisniewski (D-18), U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) basked in prolonged applause.
Pallone told PolitickerNJ.com reporter Matt Arco earlier today that he is definitely interested in running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, ground that Booker has staked out for himself as U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) prepares to finish his final term.
Lautenberg and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) likewise stayed away from tonight’s event, which was also sparsely populated by South Jersey.
Camden Mayor Dana Redd emceed the program and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) made a brief appearance, but otherwise the cast of characters was of a decidedly Central Jersey ilk.
State Sen. Bob Smith (D-17), Assemblyman Pat Diegnan (D-18) and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) were glimpsed in the room.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) sat at the head table.
District 16 Democratic challenger Marie Corfield was present working the room in pursuit of a rematch with Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-16).
Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14) was in the room.
Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer was in the room.
Buono’s biggest backer from Hudson County, Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31), appeared, and so did Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, who led the room in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) attended the event as did Passaic County Freeholders John Bartlett and Hector Lora.
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10) sat at the head table with his fellow congressmen.