2017 Intellectual Exercises, Part 1: The LD17 Conundrum

Senator Bob Smith (D-17)

Senator Bob Smith (D-17)

Powerful Middlesex Senator Bob Smith (D-17) appears less likely to back Steve Fulop than any of the other candidates for governor.

In a game of endorsements, it’s easier to see the veteran – a natural senate president consideration – looking first to sitting Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and South Jersey for a deal to advance to the senate throne of power in exchange for his support.

Smith’s support is significant.

It partly involves senior citizens and buses.

One of his running mates, Assemblyman Joe Egan (D-17) would appear to be welded to Smith, and similarly disposed to backing Building Trades bulwark Sweeney over former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy or Fulop.

That two-thirds expectation begs a question concerning the third part.

In such a scenario, what would happen to Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17)? The Franklin Twp. replacement for former Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, Danielsen is so tied to Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer that he gallantly stood during Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State in order to give his chair to Schaffer.

Schaffer looks predisposed to Fulop. There’s a solid relationship there. Moreover, she’s part of a Central Jersey consortium of counties that appear dedicated – for the purposes of power persuasion – to voting as a bloc. If such a predisposition proves true, if Fulop indeed gets the 2017 line in Somerset and Sweeney gets the line in Middlesex with Smith and Egan, the bulk of the district, would Danielsen run on the line in Somerset and off the line in Middlsex? Would a strong enough off the line operation in Middlesex prompt him to take a shot at Smith for the senate seat?

This gets interesting.

Reexamined, Schaffer’s political relationship with Smith actually goes far deeper than her relationship with Fulop. Smith is a kind of political godfather and mentor to Schaffer. With Danielsen – Schaffer’s lone assemblyman – in no man’s land – might Smith have sufficient power to persuade Schaffer to back Sweeney over Fulop for the sake of line consistency across the two counties: Somerset and Middlesex?

Sweeney incidentally put in a St. Patrick’s Day appearance last week at Schaffer’s Branchburg party function.

Is he looking to leverage his relationship with Smith into Somerset?

One source even went so far as to describe Sweeney and Schaffer as “drinking buddies.”

There’s yet another way of looking at the situation.

Remember, Middlesex is a little bit of a muddle, with Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac and state Senator Joe Vitale (D-19) on one side and Smith on the other. If Vitale cuts a deal for senate prez with Sweeney and South Jersey, is Smith’s fever for self advancement sufficient for him to throw in with Fulop and Schaffer?

One source who knows Smith said the powerful environmental committee chairman would assuredly give up a bid for senate prez if it in any way put him in any jeopardy of losing his chairmanship, a leadership perch he dearly values.


2017 Intellectual Exercises, Part 1: The LD17 Conundrum