TRENTON – It’s as if Derek Jeter hit a home run and then was nearly tripped up by David Adams while rounding the bases.
As expected, Gov. Chris Christie romped to a re-election trouncing of Barbara Buono on Tuesday, but rather than being able to sit back for a few days, relax after weeks of intense campaigning, and just enjoy his victory, by Thursday he found himself in the middle of an inter-party conflagration over whether Tom Kean Jr. should remain as Minority Leader.
Kean had followed up public boasts of the GOP winning enough Senate seats to make himself the Senate president by winning … none.
Senate President Steve Sweeney started publicly calling Kean “junior,’’ and not in a complimentary way, and made sure everyone knew Kean was going to be called on the carpet.
Names of possible successors to Kean surfaced: Sens. Kevin O’Toole prominent among them.
A letter supporting Kean was released. It bore 11 GOP signatures, O’Toole’s not among them.
Prominent GOP senators began shuffling in and out of Christie’s office: Joe Kyrillos, Diane Allen, Dawn Marie Addiego.
But when all was said and done: Kean was still on top of the mountain. He worked the phones, he fortified his defenses.
But a larger picture had emerged:
This type of internal party chaos never would have been seen during Christie’s first term, observers said. And if it had happened, it would have been entirely private and taken care of within minutes.
How quickly things change once the incumbent heads toward a second – and final – term.
The scrambling for GOP supremacy in a post-Christie landscape already has begun. Given that the governor is a likely 2016 presidential contender, that scrambling in the Statehouse has taken on an added urgency.
The postelection script that was presented this past week will still have more chapters in the coming year: How much control of his caucus will Kean actually have? Will O’Toole or others make their moves? Will Sweeney seek more revenge by sidelining GOP bills, as he did earlier this year?
The other postelection transfer of power, one already reported on, was in the lower chamber, where Assemblyman Vincent Prieto officially was tapped to become Speaker Sheila Oliver’s successor next year.
This announcement surprised no one; it had been revealed a while back. It was accompanied by none of the thunder and lightning that the Senate GOP’s week featured.
Voters who sent Christie back to the front office on Tuesday also decided to give the least-paid among us a boost.
The state Constitution has been changed. The minimum wage will rise $1 to $8.25.
And if the cost of living dictates it in the future, it will rise again.
Time will tell if critics’ predictions of dire consequences for work forces and consumers will come true.
The backers say just watch: Folks won’t pocket the extra dollar; they’ll pour it right back into the economy.
Working-class residents struggling to make ends meet will benefit in the short term as their paychecks rise. Whether the economic recovery in New Jersey stalls or accelerates remains to be seen.
The other recovery – the Superstorm Sandy recovery – continued, with bills moving through committees and funds moving toward those in need.
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee released a package of bills this week that touched on various issues raised in the aftermath of the monster storm of 2012.
*A bill to mandate standards for those who raise houses above flood levels was approved in committee. It would require that personnel be trained on the equipment they would be operating.
“We’ve seen enough dropped houses,’’ said John Miller of the N.J. Association of Floodplain Management.
The operators would have to maintain $1 million in insurance coverage as well.
*Another bill was OK’d that would expand the kinds of projects eligible for a special assessment in exchange for owners receiving financing help.
Flood-resistant projects, storm shelter projects and others would fall under the umbrella that already included renewable energy systems.
In addition, the state announced it wants to make $145 million in additional funding available for post-Sandy assistance.
It wants to retarget the federal money to help homeowners still on waiting lists for reconstruction aid, and to help award grants to keep people in their hometowns rather than forcing them to relocate.
The state opened up a public comment period that runs until Nov. 20.