The departure of Thomas “Doc” Paterniti as chairman of the local Democratic Party creates a showdown among four candidates seeking to replace the Edison icon.
Sources predict a bloodbath as “Doc’s” protégé Anythony Russomanno, a close ally of Mayor Tom Lankey, attempts to put the organization on his back.
One source predicts a very stout challenge from veteran Councilman Bob Diehl, the Cicero of Edison Township, who has sat on the governing body while others in his midst have advanced to higher heights. This, the source said, is Diehl’s shot at political relevance.
Another source points to Policeman Keith Hahn, who pulled “Doc” into a 75-55 dogfight a year ago and will take a crack at preserving his support.
Paterniti consolidated his 75 committee votes in 2014 through an alliance of Councilman Michael Lombardi, Anthony Russomano, former Mayor Jun Choi, Committeeman Donald Hanssen (former Choi campaign manager and also a candidate to succeed Paterniti), the fire department, part of the police department and a third of the Asian bloc, one source close to the action told PolitickernJ.
Hahn built his 55-vote showing with two-thirds of the Asian bloc and some police.
In a post Paterniti world, sources say Russomano starts with the blessing of the departing king, Hansen the Choi diehards and some Lombardi juice.
Where the rest of the cops and fire and Asians go remains a question mark heading toward the June 8th showdown at the Pines Manor.
At least one source close to Hahn insisted on the cop’s capacity to keep organized those votes he received last year, but another source insisted that Diehl represents the biggest threat to the Paterniti/Russomanno core or dead and still-surviving white males who built Edison.
“Everybody is afraid of Diehl,” said the source, referring to the mayor’s backers.
Diehl is sitting there on the council right now, seething over the fact that everyone around him has moved up, and now he wants up.
This is his chance, the source insisted.
Doc’s exit shifted the Edison axis. Doc put cops and fire on the committee, and it’s now the job of the politically mechanical-minded Russomano – who bucked Doc once but then won back the old leader’s heart – to keep them in the establishment’s corner.