That Mountainside soiree wasn’t the only political meeting in New Jersey last night with easily observable gubernatorial organization optics.
While South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones and Union County Democratic Chairman Jerry Green dined in Mountainside, Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer presided over a Bound Brook fundraiser for her county candidates attended by Union County Sheriff Joe Cryan.
Many players are still enjoying the prospect of flirting with the 2017 candidates.
But it was significant to note the presence at the Schaffer-Cryan event of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who addressed Democrats especially hopeful of a countywide win this year. Many of them are convinced that billionaire businessman Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, will contribute to suppressed GOP turnout in November and assist their two candidates for county office. Former Governor Christie Todd Whitman, a Somerset County Republican icon and author of the book “It’s My Party too,” has been particularly critical of Trump’s candidacy.
Cryan appears to be preparing to back Fulop in next year’s governor’s contest, a move that would pit him against his old nemesis Norcross, who is on the “Anybody but Fulop” team along with Union County Democratic Chairman Green, who supped with Norcross and company.
While she has kept all potential Democratic candidates for governor busy in her county with a steady diet of events, Schaffer at the very least does not subscribe to “Anybody but Fulop,” and her decision to honor Cryan at her fundraiser indicates her willingness to support a Norcross renegade.
Schaffer and Cryan have strong political ties. Her mother and his father were friends. In 2013, the two party leaders both staunchly backed state Senator Barbara Buono for governor while DiVincenzo supported the reelection of Republican Governor Chris Christie and Norcross hardly projected an impassioned Buono surrogate.