NEWARK – It seems that South Jersey-based Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) is continuing his charm offensive in the northern part of the state as he continues to angle for a likely 2017 gubernatorial run. Today, Sweeney joined Republican Senator Kevin O’Toole (R-40) for an event at Newark’s North Ward Center to honor O’Toole for his dedication to the mission of the center: to help underserved populations.
Sweeney—who called O’Toole one of his “best friends” despite ideological differences—presented O’Toole with the award. During his remarks, the Democratic Senator praised the Republican for his willingness to work with those on the other side of the aisle.
“This is an example of what can be,” Sweeney said. “When you talk about bipartisanship, I am happy you talk about my friend Kevin.”
Sweeney continued to say that O’Toole doesn’t care if “ideas are Republican ideas or Democratic ideas” but acted based on the value of the ideas themselves, something he claimed more in the minority party needed to be willing to do. Sweeney also mentioned O’Toole’s name coming up when the Republicans were looking for a minority leader in the senate, a position that eventually went to Tom Kean Jr (R-21).
“When there was a discussion of who would be minority leader, Kevin’s name came up,” Sweeney said. “People said to me: ‘Aren’t you worried about Kevin? He’s really smart.’” But Sweeney said that O’Toole’s intelligence and willingness to compromise on issues are what would have made him a valuable leader in the minority party.
For his own part, O’Toole also discussed his willingness to veer away from the Republican Party’s general consensus on issues.
“It is not popular for a Republican to be here. I am here,” O’Toole said. “There are not enough people in my party who understand what is going on in Newark. That is what my party should do.”
Adubato Jr. served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. During his remarks, he also lauded the two senators for their ability to work together and “get along so well.”
“It is the only bipartisanship we see down here, Adubato Jr. said.
The alliance between Sweeney and O’Toole demonstrates a powerful one as Sweeney looks towards being governor. The connection between Sweeney and the Essex County Democratic Party—which was evidenced by the presence of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Steve Adubato Jr. and Steve Adubato Sr.—also means he is strengthening ties in the Democratic stronghold of Essex. If Sweeney were to eventually get the Essex County Democratic endorsement for governor, it would be a huge boost to his likelihood of getting the eventual Democratic nomination.
The North Ward Center was founded by Adubato Sr in 1970. Since then, the family has continued to run the center and push the mission of helping those in the North Ward. The award O’Toole received is granted in honor of the Center’s co-founder Monsignor Geno Baroni.