The mayors’ delicate balance: a 2015 Democratic Primary war in LD29 would cause strife in Fulop world


The allies of Ras Baraka want more out of next year’s Democratic Primary cycle, but if talks break down with Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones and they run against incumbents, don’t look for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop to jump into the fray, sources say.

Not this time, and not with so much on the line.

Fulop threw his weight behind Baraka to help get the mayor elected in a nonpartisan race earlier this year.

But that was a nonpartisan election, not a full-blown Democratic Party event like the 2015 Essex Primary.

Sources say Fulop opposes joining forces with Baraka if it means opposing Jones, the party chairman who ultimately will award the lines to those candidates running for governor in 2017.

That’s why it’s in Fulop’s best political interest for Baraka and company to resolve the 2015 primary in a backroom with Jones rather than on the battlefield.

A battle between the Democratic establishment and Baraka’s South Ward-based army will no doubt trigger the gleeful participation of Fulop’s rivals: Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany on the side of the incumbents, in forceful financial support of the chairman’s Democratic ticket.

Any appearance of wobbly allegiance by the Jersey City mayor – or torn emotions with Baraka offering a slate of alternatives to Jones – would give a leg up to the allies of Sweeney and Murphy for Jones’ later affections come election time, and force Fulop to double down on other counties (including Bergen, where the mayor was the earliest big dollar financial backer among the guv candidates to the cause of Bergen County Executive-elect James Tedesco).

A source earlier today close to the mayor said Baraka continues to nurse hope for peace. But sources close to Jones say the chairman sees no reason to jettison the incumbent lawmakers in question in LD29: Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin.

In the neighboring 28th, Baraka’s allies question the cemented assigning of Assemblyman Ralph Caputo to the Ras Camp, noting the assemblyman’s longtime close relations with the North Ward Center. They see his endorsement of Baraka in the mayor’s race more as a matter of self-preservation than devotion to the Baraka political family, the source said. The source chafed at the notion that Caputo and Assemblywoman Cleo Tucker (D-28) balance out Pintor Marin and Spencer by virtue of their support for the mayor in the May election.

Still, jettisoning Caputo for another pick in the 28th – not that they could easily accomplish that, but even expending any capital in that direction – would not supplant the mayor’s delight in having a 29th District, South Ward-based choice for Trenton, the source said.

That’s the sticking point.

Maybe a war could be avoided, another source noted, if the mayor could muscle up on the freeholder board with Jones’ help, thereby attaining more government balance and a strengthened Baraka hand at the county level.

But sources close to DiVincenzo say the executive, for his part, is reluctant to give an advantage to a mayor aligned with some of his political rivals, among them state Senator Dick Codey (D-27).

Having joined Baraka in a fight against the Essex establishment in May, Fulop will resist a civil war – or risk losing any advantage he’s carefully trying to cultivate and juggle in Essex County.

“I don’t think Baraka will run a primary,” a Democratic Party insider told PolitickerNJ. “I think Baraka will stand up to those people in his camp who want a primary. He has [Assemblyman Tom] Giblin and [Assemblywoman Sheila] Oliver. He has Cleo. He has Ralph. I don’t think he should do it. That’s exactly what Joe D. wants.”

The mayors’ delicate balance: a 2015 Democratic Primary war in LD29 would cause strife in Fulop world