Gubernatorial politics – and specifically the impact of that transactional spillzone between the two parties – continues to dominate the backrooms and barstools of a once glorious Garden State turned inexorably toxic.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has jumped out front as a 2025 option for the Democrats.
Someone saw him in Somerset County.
Well, (former Senate President) Steve Sweeney was there, too; in fact, at the head of the room.
But Fulop has some significant ties early (and Middlesex always appears at the verge of permanently over-muscling Somerset into the considerable folds of itself; cue the Sadaf Jafer succession intrigue).
The Stack-O’Toole-McCabe would-be Yalta effect appears to yoke Fulop to some sense of a two-county, maybe two-party political order that no one else can presently boast.
Both Kevin O’Toole (former senator and GOP power player) and Kevin McCabe (Middlesex
County Democratic Committee chair, and arguably strong enough to be considered a candidate himself – maybe if Fulop falls apart? Test the Hudson-Middlesex structure with Fulop and then change candidates? Just a thought.) convivially occupy the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the former’s solidification assured through the recent appointment of Phil Murphy allies and McCabe a dominant statewide player by virtue of his sturdy Middlesex management.
If McCabe gets behind Fulop, who starts with the chair of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) on his side, insiders see a strong chance for McCabe to pull O’Toole and Stack, or at least convince O’Toole not to play mightily behind a 2025 Republican option for governor.
There’s a bond there, to paraphrase Al Pacino from Glengarry Glen Rose.
And it’s a bond that might be particularly critical to take note of by the likes of Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman LeRoy Jones, who also serves as chair of the state party.
Jones really would like to see Essex escape the surly bonds of its own nearly two-decade subservience to South Jersey.
The crumbling of the South opens up a new opportunity for Essex to once occupy the throne of Democratic Party politics.
And if Fulop is flirting with Hudson and Middlesex, the powerful Essex chair has the headache of unravelling the ambitions of two (and maybe three) gubernatorial candidates in his own county.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is said to want to run.
Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller is said to be intrigued by a run.
Jones himself would probably favor U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11).
A star, Sherrill would likely capture the imaginations of other county chairs and perhaps – more
than any other name currently in circulation – better puncture the fortunes of someone like Fulop.
But as long as U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) is rattling around up north (sources say he could be enticed into a statewide run), he keeps Bergen from making a move, further conceivably tormenting Jones with a supposedly fractured county.
Essex is like a mastodon pinned down by a several different lesser encampments, who individually benefit by keeping the mighty beast at bay.
As long as Jones has the headache – at the very least – of Baraka undercutting Sherrill, he runs the risk of driving his chariot (to jump forward several thousand years with the historical imagery) into battle with division in the ranks.
Might someone else – if Sherrill doesn’t run – heal the rift, or prevent Essex from becoming a bystander to power?
Former Governor Dick Codey perhaps?
What about Jones (a former assemblyman) himself?
But intriguing, to borrow the same word U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell once used to deflect a reporter’s question about whether he would pursue a guv run.
Why not Baraka if he wants it, and if Fulop is a legit candidate?
There’s a little bad political blood there going back to 2017 when Fulop disappointed Baraka by staying aboard the plane and not finally pulling the ripcord on a full-blown guv jump.
Why not give Baraka a chance at payback?
Well, it’s complicated.
Baraka never liked the establishment.
He’d sooner run against it than with it, if the truth be told.
He can perhaps reveal the strategic depth of his statewide ambitions this year, in the 28th district. If he fields a candidate off the line to run against state Senator Renee Burgess (D-28), that will signify his go-for-broke intentions.
If he doesn’t, he arguably runs the risk of – irony of ironies – appearing merely to fulfill the out-of-county establishment intentions of anti-Jones forces.
In any event, it’s all ongoing.