The Coming Appearance of Inevitability Around Jones for Party Chairman


It will be difficult if not impossible for Essex – in the main – to go against its own party chairman, and in the biggest Democratic county in the state that means something.

What also counts is the coming formal establishment backing for Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones from the likes of South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross III, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and those others who backed sitting Chairman John Currie in 2013.

They backed him to block then-Democratic nominee for Governor Barbara Buono from having her own choice for chair.

She wanted then-Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell to succeed Assemblyman John Wisniewski, but that would have given her more power than the bosses wanted as they soft pedaled opposition against then-Republican Governor Chris Christie. The anti-pen-ben overhaul O’Donnell choice, one source recalled, was seen as deliberately provocative and anti-establishment.

The game changed when Sweeney wanted to run for governor and Currie instead backed Phil Murphy for the job.

So did Jones, for that matter, but only after Currie took that initial plunge.

Sweeney had backed Currie for chair. He was supposed to be there for Sweeney. It stung. And the relationship never recovered.

But now, in the aftermath of Murphy allies dealing an inside game loss to Sweeney, the South Jersey crew is retaliating with Jones, seeking Murphy dismemberment by other means.

“This was plan B,” one source, a Currie ally, groaned.

Jones guys insist he’s his own man, and certainly he has relationships of his own beyond South Jersey. Currie, moreover, has had one of the longer state party chair runs in recent memory.

“It’s time,” one source – who likes both Democratic Party leaders – confessed.

But the fracture between Murphy and the party establishment with brain trust ties to South Jersey makes Currie’s projected insider demise look like another incremental shot at the sitting governor.

Rankled by the redistricting loss earlier this week, Sweeney and company are convinced they will have a leg up on votes unaffected by those progressive forces who shouted them down at the Statehouse.

And yet, “It will all depend if Murphy digs in and gets his hands dirty [for Currie],” a source said.

It’s not inevitable for Jones, a second source insisted.

The Dick Codey wing of the Essex County Democratic Party could stick with Currie (but it’s tough, Codey and Jones are former running mates). Union will likely be divided, cast against the backdrop of an ongoing rivalry between Union County Democratic Chairman Nick Scutari and state Senator Joe Cryan.

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