Battlefield-Rousted Sweeney Causes Democratic Party Establishment to Entertain Contingency Plan

Insider NJ's Fred Snowflack discusses Gov. Phil Murphy's reluctance to apply pressure to Democrats in the NJ Legislature in order to get the programs and legislation he wants supported and how it is hurting Murphy's administration.

As the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) chucks money into LD3, members of the New Jersey political class gently consider the prospect of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) losing his seat and how that would impact state politics. It’s not quite at the stage of that Braveheart battle scene where the unnerved English general orders his unflappable and doomed second banana to personally lead the cavalry charge, or at the Grand Moff Tarkin escape pod phase, but the contest between Sweeney and unheralded GOP challenger Fran Grenier has people’s attention.

Too strong in his caucus, Sweeney stands a greater chance of getting dinged at the ballot box, the source speculated. It’s mostly the money factor, coupled with Grenier’s early blue face-painted salvos. Still, he’s mostly seen as fundamentally a comic book-sized casualty.

Too much adds up in Sweeney’s favor, including his longstanding Building Trades support, the lopsided margins anticipated between Democrat Phil Murphy and GOP rival Kim Guadagno, a muddled candidacy by his rival, and a badly misfiring Republican Party under the auspices of embattled President Donald J. Trump. Sweeney’s antagonists see opportunity in a 15%-eviscerated Gov. Chris Christie, with whom Sweeney partnered on many key initiatives. If Grenier and his band can weld Christie and Sweeney in the minds of voters, they may have a shot. If they can reach women voters in the district with saturation bomb messaging, they have a shot. But its hard, a source told InsiderNJ, almost impossible with Trump chaotically short-circuiting.

And yet, the conversations must be had, the same source told InsiderNJ, as he noted contingency plans creeping into party talks while Sweeney attempts to display his own considerable capacity to hack Grenier’s improbable NJEA-GOP candidacy limb from limb. The Democratic Party establishment effort appears tailored to preserve party hegemony as it currently exists, with the seesaw shifting from North to South and the same behind-the-scenes maintaining their strong hand.

“There is a wing in the party that would be comfortable with Ruiz,” the source told InsiderNJ, referring to state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) of Newark, a staunch Sweeney supporter and in that cocoon of power otherwise widely interpreted as the North-South melding of  powerful South Jersey Democratic Organization pooh-bah George Norcross III and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Ruiz’s political godfather.

If Sweeney falls on Election Day – again, a big and elusive if – the South would have state Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1), Senator Fred Madden (D-4), Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-5), Senator Jim Beach (D-6) and very probably state Senator-elect Troy Singleton (D-7) to throw into the breach of any possible power vacuum, adding Middlesex (four) and Union (two) (in exchange for Central Jersey’s support for Assemblyman Craig Coughlin to serve the lower house as speaker). A Ruiz candidacy would pull – presumably – her own vote, at least and likely that of state Senator Nia Gill (D-34).  State Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) – a longtime South Jersey ally – could get yanked in with the promise – conceivably – of a senate majority leader post, for some extra padding to push Ruiz onto the throne of power.

As it stands, most sources – in both parties – anticipate Sweeney handling Grenier and then folding into the deal that will discharge sitting Speaker Vincent Prieto and lump in Coughlin. If it isn’t volatile it is at least parlor room-worthy…

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One response to “Battlefield-Rousted Sweeney Causes Democratic Party Establishment to Entertain Contingency Plan”

  1. The NJEA leadership is throwing their memberships money away. Sweeney and his many supporters will fight like hell to keep him in Trenton and they will succeed .

    Most of the Teachers in the 3rd District will continue to support Sweeney. His Education Funding Bill is bringing in large amounts of money to the school districts that are in need in that area.

    The NJEA leadership can spend money, but they cannot turn out the vote. They are succeeding in making the Sweeney supporters angry which is making them work even harder. NJEA leadership opposition to Sweeney will actually be a good thing for Sweeney since that organization is showing its true ,greedy, self serving face to voters in the District.

    The GOTV and mobilization for Sweeney will be massive ,AND IT WILL INCLUDE TEACHERS!

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