It was awkward.
The big room at Galloping Hill Catering Hall made it easier, but the sight of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) wandering in to the fundraising event for Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20) caused some back chatter.
“The joke was Sweeney came up to make sure Cryan is leaving,” cracked one party insider, who showed up to help the veteran assemblyman make his transition from jilted Trenton Democrat to reconfirmed Union County power player.
After battling his own party – notably the Sweeney wing of the party in the Capitol – over public pension benefits – Cryan decided to run for sheriff in the Nov. 4th election.
Sweeney graciously worked the room, crammed with insiders.
There were 300 people in attendance.
There was much goodwill in the room for the man of the hour.
Cryan took his guests around.
The departing assemblyman playfully introduced Sweeney’s rival – Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop – as governor.
Having apparently made a favorable impression on Cryan since the assemblyman’s unsuccessful 2013 attempt to protect his friend, incumbent Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy, from Fulop’s onslaught, the new mayor also had a speaking role at the event.
Invited, embraced, Sweeney declined to speak.
“He’s doing his politics,” a source noted of the senate president.
Whatever happens with governor 2017, in the end the event was about Cryan, whose political stature in the Union County constellation appears more than secure.