The strapping South Jerseyan was an unmistakable public presence alongside Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato and state Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) in recent days, crammed at a table with the two north state Democratic Party politicians.
Sources say Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) trusts in relationships – like the one he has with Budget Chairman Sarlo – to yield north state political capital.
But for the moment, a source said, Stellato isn’t committing to guv talk.
The source said Sweeney and Sarlo met with Stellato to talk about the developing Bergen County Executive’s race, where Republican incumbent Kathe Donovan faces ther Stellato-backed James Tedesco, a Bergen County freeholder.
Gov talk never came up, the source insisted.
But whenever Sarlo and Sweeney appear to talk politics, insiders speculate on a plausible future deal: Sarlo and Stellato back Sweeney for governor and secure him the line in Bergen in a Democratic Primary for governor; and in return Sweeney secures Southern support for Sarlo to succeed him as senate president.
No one will confirm that this subject came up at the meeting among the three men.
In any event, Stellato made no promises.
But if the subject does arise at some point, Sweeney may have to contend with the mantra coming out of the chairmen’s camps in Bergen, Hudson and Passaic, even as his chief rival to succeed Christie – Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop – also circles with an eye to ingratiating himself with the county committee leaders.
The three counties will stick together, say sources connected to all three of them, confirmed by repeated public declarations of Bergen-Hudson-Passaic solidarity.
Stellato strengthened his relationship with him in the aftermath of that 2012 CD12 primary tilt.
But they’ve had a longstanding friendship, going back to high school football.
He also has longstanding ties to key people in the camp of state Sen. Nick Sacco (D-32), who struck the deal with the south to make Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) of Hudson County chairman of the General Assembly.
Contacted for comment, Sarlo said the meeting was strictly on the county executive race.
“I think you’re going to see every important Democrat weighing in on the county executive in support of James Tedesco,” said the senator from South Bergen – and that includes Sweeney, he added.