It’s almost time once again for that seaside romp called the annual League of Municipalities Convention, where at least three Democratic candidates for governor will attempt to leave the biggest impression on that motley barbarian horde otherwise known as New Jersey’s political class.
All three men have parties scheduled for the same time on Tuesday evening.
Here’s a look at their particular cocktail party events and challenges…
Murmur at the Borgata
The Mayor of Jersey City has a bit of a reputation as someone who can only have a good time when he’s either A. messing haphazardly with his Blackberry; or B. in full-blown Machiavellian calculation mode. Neither activity translates into wild and crazy guy, so Fulop’s challenge will be to appear relaxed and friendly while oozing charming attentiveness in the presence of those guests who have sometimes complained about the mayor’s propensity to look coldly through them instead of warmly at them. He’ll have help, having enlisted the party time assistance of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres, both of whom appear on the invites. It’s all a question of balance for Fulop. He’ll have to simultaneously accomplish the appearance of borderline frat party animal without looking like someone out of control, lest he fall into the trap of convincing revelers that they actually want “adult leadership;” someone like…
The Gypsy Bar, Borgata
The former U.S. Ambassador to Germany has spent the past year in tireless, hyperkinetic back-slapping mode. There isn’t a person in the state connected to Democratic Party politics who hasn’t at some point lifted his head off a bar to find himself the object of Murphy’s absolute beaming adoration. But Murphy, who already stumbled a year ago when he distributed Christmas cards that revealed a Thurston Howell-like penchant for millionaire creature comforts and tastes, must be mindful, even amid the sumptuous surroundings of Atlantic City’s casino culture – to appear “middle class, on a good day.” Also, Murphy has to avoid slipping into a pattern of overzealously celebrating the “achievements” of those adherents to the underbelly of politics, who might show up at a party simply to wash down a plateful of pigs in blankets with glass after glass of pinot noir. Backup? Murphy’s having his wife come in for that, Tammy, who routinely gets high marks for high stakes social skills. Anyway, the ambassador’s got his work cut out for him when one considers the everyman authenticity of someone like…
The Pier at Caesars
This is the Senate President’s domain down here, and routinely Sweeney’s best opportunity to avoid that nagging back-chatter about how he lacks firm footing in North Jersey. Newsflash to those suitcase-lugging big-shots who take the trip down the Parkway thinking their presence makes the League a North Jersey happening: it’s Atlantic City. It’s a South Jersey event, and at the top of that long surreal escalator on the Pier, Sweeney annually convincingly holds court as the most visible host of his region of the state. Of course, Sweeney always has to mildly fret about attendance and making his event look like it’s packed not just with assorted recognizable tusks from Trenton looking to get to the legislative trough but like an unfolding and enlarging gubernatorial campaign. Of course, he can’t escape the Northern question, even down here. Joined last year by Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason, Sweeney supplemented her northern presence this year with state Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham at the top of his invite. We all knew Cunningham would be a Sweeney ally – irksome to Fulop partisans who wanted Jersey City on lockdown for their Steve – now Cunningham’s out in the open. The other issue Sweeney has to worry about is the fact that his two rivals are both staging their parties at the Borgata, presumably so guests can stumble drunkenly up and down the carpeted hallways without having to put keys in ignitions. That’s bad in terms of logistics, but Sweeney has support in the form of Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6), whose event precedes the senate president’s in the same space.