The Carpenters Dominate Democratic Party Conference at the Borgata

Ballantyne and Coughlin

ATLANTIC CITY – Sporting tipsy, disco ball-lit grins on top of the jagged edges of their ongoing intraparty dramas, Democrats poured into the Borgata ballroom at the Democratic State Committee Conference Thursday night and sought the Carpenters Union as a rallying point that transcended their regional fractures.

Riding a 25-point lead over his Republican rival, their candidate for Governor, Phil Murphy, stood atop that political pillar forged out of characters as supposedly disparate as Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1). John Ballantyne, executive secretary-treasurer of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, strode a big room jammed with the likes of U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5), state Senator Nia Gill (D-34), state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22), Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37), Democratic State Party Vice Chair Lizette Delgado Polanco, and many others.


“The Democratic Party is coming together,” Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34), the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor, told InsiderNJ at the top of the giant escalators that ferried revelers to and fro. “I’ve been all sides and in all factions of the Democratic Party, and with Phil Murphy as our candidate, and with the relationships I’ve been aware of, I think it’s going to be a wonderful administration. With Phil Murphy, Democrats are going to all be united, trust me.”

Of course, there were signs that the party wasn’t altogether healed, after Coughlin assembled the votes – with the help of South Jersey, Middlesex and Essex counties, to oust Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) from the speaker’s chair. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an assembly source on his way into the Carpenters bash told InsiderNJ that Prieto had approached him as recently as today to talk about shoring support in the caucus to fend off the stampeding Coughlin. But Coughlin made the rounds during the party’s prime time hour looking very much like a man in control.

On the same day too that Democrats paid tribute to the late state Senator Jim Whelan (D-2), a highly respected figure – revered in some corners of the party – some sadness hung over the party. Veteran operative Trish Mueller of the Carpenters mentioned to InsiderNJ how Senator Whelan’s death had deeply affected people and produced a downbeat mood. Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) fight too with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), which backs Republican Fran Grenier in the Nov. 7th General Election, produced a little agitation in the room.

Yound and Christy
Camden County Freeholder Jonathan L. Young, and Gloucester County Freeholder Dan Christy.

“I’ve heard – now I haven’t seen any polling – that it is a very close race,” Gloucester County Freeholder Dan Christy told InsiderNJ. “I think the sense is that it is a real race. Now, Steve has done such a great job – he’s going to win. Certainly in Gloucester and Cumberland he’ll win. What about Salem? “I don’t know Salem as well,” Christy said, referring to Grenier’s home county.

The power and influence of the Carpenters – employer of Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe, who shoehorned Coughlin into the speakership by teaming up with South Jersey – even included room enough to accommodate Sean Spiller, secretary-treasure of the NJEA. Sweeney’s a Building Trades guy, and the Carpenters are all in with his reelection, but a smiling Spiller evidently felt welcome among the gaggles of pro Building Trades brothers and sisters.

Oliver insisted that the Murphy ticket will reach out and touch that progressive portion of the electorate that opposed the retired Goldman Sachs executive in the Democratic Primary. “Frank Pallone, Bonnie Watson Coleman and I did a town hall at the Labor Education Center,” the lieutenant governor candidate told InsiderNJ. “The crowd spilled into the hall. They were Bernie Sanders supporters. They were John Wisniewski supporters, and we brought everyone under one tent.”



There was so much good feeling among Democrats that Gottheimer was even willing to entertain President Donald J. Trump’s overtures to his party on DACA. “If he wants that, I’ll do it,” the congressman said. “It’s much better than getting jammed on a bill.”

Inside the big ballroom, the crowd on the dance floor strenuously tried to recreate Saturday Night Fever moves to the strains of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Ballantyne and Delgado Polanco.


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One response to “The Carpenters Dominate Democratic Party Conference at the Borgata”

  1. Nj sucks nothing changes so long as Norcross is alive and making deals with democrats.

    Jersey really sucks

    Shame on you all

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