HACKENSACK – Here’s a New Jersey update on the presidential election:
Right, no one cares.
The Democratic establishment is neck deep in 2017.
Here’s what we know right now.
Middlesex, Bergen, Passaic, Hudson and Essex all lined up behind the gubernatorial candidacy of Phil Murphy, the former Goldman Sachs executive and former ambassador to Germany. The expectation of that coming together put South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross III into full-bore legislative leadership protection mode. He and his ally Senate President Steve Sweeney began harvesting commitments from caucus members to back Sweeney. As soon as they tallied a majority, Sweeney dropped out of the gubernatorial contest.
What about Speaker of the General Assembly?
If past is prologue, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin of Woodbridge has a clear advantage.
A source told PolitickerNJ that sitting Speaker Vincent Prieto of Secaucus is going to head up the Department of Community Affairs in a Murphy administration.
That makes two things.
First, it means U.S. Rep. Albio Sires of West New York will run again in 2018 rather than give his seat to Prieto. If West New York Mayor Felix Roque, however, gets jammed up on corruption charges, Sires might again take the reins of local government, a Hudson source told PolitickerNJ.
Now, the past two speakerships – Sheila Oliver in 2009 and Prieto in 2013 – came about when the South fused its coalition with that northern operation that demonstrated the best organization.
In Oliver’s case, it was Essex.
In Prieto’s case, it was Hudson.
This time, of the big counties, Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe has exhibited the most discipline. Not Prieto and state Senator Nick Sacco. Not Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. Not Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato.
With the exception of Assemblyman John Wisniewski of Sayreville, his delegation has waited patiently behind him while he made his moves.
So the south will work with Middlesex.
Now, Norcross and Sweeney wanted either Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo of Hamilton or Assemblyman Joe Egan of New Brunswick. They’re both sturdy Building trades guys and Sweeney loyalists. But McCabe and his allies want Coughlin. Nothing against DeAngelo and Egan, but what good is it to have a guy from Middlesex if he’s controlled by someone outside of Middlesex. Dammit, Norcross hit back. We did this already with Prieto. He didn’t do what he was told.
Relations couldn’t be worse now between Norcross/Sweeney and Sacco/Prieto. That’s one of the key reasons Sacco/Prieto went with Murphy. Things had so soured between them and South Jersey that they were on an anybody but Sweeney train.
Norcross plied Egan.
He pitched DeAngelo.
But McCabe stood firm.
“I want Coughlin.”
Now, he had a card to play, or two, in fact.
Norcross wants anybody but Assemblyman Gary Schaer, an ally of his political rivals Stellato and Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie.
McCabe pushed for Coughlin, which stymies Schaer.
He’d throw in Middlesex support for Sweeney.
It appears that Norcross is ready to take that deal, if he hasn’t already.
“It’s done,” groaned a trusted PNJ source earlier this afternoon.
So McCabe gets governor, because he was an early behind the scenes backer of Murphy, and speaker.
Stellato, Currie and Sacco get governor, because their endorsement of Murphy – motivated in part by anybody but Sweeney fervor – put considerable spring in the Goldman Sachs star’s step.
Stellato and Currie also appear poised to get lieutenant governor in the person of Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter of Paterson.
She’s the front-runner to occupy the Murphy ticket.
Currie wants that.
She’s his goddaughter.
It appears to be happening.
The northern chairs also wanted to get behind Murphy – and this is key – to prevent Norcross from getting his hands on the appointment of an attorney general in a Sweeney administration. They feared giving an extra set of teeth to the South Jersey shark, and so coalesced fast around the former ambassador to Germany rather than give Sweeney a chance to build any momentum on Jersey City Steve Fulop’s gubernatorial demise last week.
That’s where things appear to stand right now.
Oh, and Essex County?
“Castrated,” said an Essex source, unhappy about it and bemoaning the big county’s inability to secure a seat in the statewide game of musical chairs.
Essex was never unified.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was with Fulop.
Senator Dick Codey was with Murphy.
DiVincenzo was with Sweeney.
It just looked like a Deepwater Horizons set-piece from the beginning, until Jones stepped in and essentially ended the primary when he issued his endorsement for Murphy.
State Senator Ray Lesniak of Elizabeth claims he’s still running.
But his county got nothing in the way of leadership considerations.
Worse than Essex.
As for Wisniewski, the assemblyman who prosecuted Bridgegate who continues to saunter softly around the state in apparent gubernatorial candidate feel-out mode, appears close to securing Department of Transportation chief in a Phil Murphy administration.