The Departure of the 99 and 1% Senator from Bergen County

There are senators who put together a blend of politics and policy who give you that hybrid animal.

Take Bob Menendez.

There’s a lot of politics there, no question.

But then, he loves policy, too.

So he’s maybe 60-40.

Or better,

70-30%.

70% politics and 30% policy.

Nick Scutari is a 70-30% guy.

People might have notched him at 50-50%.

Then came the chairman’s fight and he revealed the core political side.

Scutari: 70-30%.

Joe Vitale.

He loves policy.

But Perth Amboy keeps him politically active (and probably not in a good way much of the time), but it does.

80-20%.

Senator Ray Lesniak nursed sufficient affection for policy to keep him from becoming simply a full-fledged political wild bore in the statehouse.

He really loved it.

But he was political by definition.

So he was probably 60-40%.

Then there’s retiring state Senator Bob Gordon (D-38), who might be the most unnatural senator of all, in the sense that he never took to politics.

It was all policy with the Williams and Wharton-educated Gordon.

99-1%.

That’s Gordon, in the eyes of his fellow senators.

99% policy.

1% politics.

He was in a battleground district, so he would throw on the overcoat and go door to door for votes.

That was the irony.

But picture someone like Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel campaigning on the Phenomenology of Spirit.

That was Gordon, dragging around the likes of Republican Kevin Tober trying to force him into having a YouTube.

He avoided the trap.

But he was annoyed.

“Excuse me,” Gordon said once when InsiderNJ asked if he was too smart for politics.

He was honestly affronted, though he met the gazes of his fellow senators like a chamber stocked with meditative fish in response to his quoting from the Federalist Papers on the floor of the senate. In seeming solitude he delighted in dissecting the evils of the “tyranny of the majority” on the subject of marriage equality.

He was steeped in policy in his very bones.

Brian Stack? He might be Gordon inverted. 99% politics. 1% policy.

Gordon?

He refused to play the jobs game.

He never looked for hires.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) digested the news media in a glare that left Gordon miniaturized in the shadows.

State Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) ate his lunch on appointments.

He fumbled his way onto center stage as the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, the absent minded and utterly awkward alternate to the politically punished Senator Nick Sacco (D-32), a pure politics guy who looked on in horror as Gordon – a would-be ally – supplanted him.

Edgy political animal did not come to mind as he assumed the transportation mantle from Sacco.

And yet, from a pure policy standpoint, he was a giant.

A “tower of policy,” is how his former colleague state Senator Kevin O’Toole (R-4o) described him.

“There are few policy wonks left, Bob might be the last intellectual giant,” O’Toole, now the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, opined.

Bob “99% policy, 1% politics” Gordon.

Gateway.

Ferry service.

Transit opportunities for the next decade.

That’s his legacy.

But smash and grab politics?

Forget it.

Gordon was 67 years worth of pure policy.

His successor, Assemblyman Joe Lagana (D-38) is said to be champing at the bit.

That’s supposed to go down next Wednesday.

Gordon’s letter of resignation gets submitted today.

Convention Wednesday.

Swearing-in ceremony for Lagana Thursday.

Their slate mate Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-38) won’t stick around, sources say.

Lagana will want to remake the district in his political image.

Sarlo.

Scutari.

Lagana.

They’ll be like the daughters of King Lear dividing the empire of New Jersey, or like the sons of the daimyo in the Kurosawa remake Ran.

Gordon?

He slowed everybody down.

It was policy.

Reams of policy.

Out came those granny glasses.

And…

Oh, no. Bob, not again.

His wife Gail Gordon was a political jabberwocky.

Loves politics.

Gift of gab.

Not like Bob, who wants to perpetually dive into the weeds.

Vitale might be the last one left who somewhat resembles the type.

Bring up a local race and the senator from Woodbridge tries to bend the arc of conversation to healthcare.

Gordon – with the corruption collapse of his predecessor Joe Coniglio – started there.

Started there and finished there.

He began on policy – and ten years later, heading to the Board of Public Utilities and the company of the equally policy-affable former Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula – finished on policy.

There’s no one else like him left in the senate.

There are 70-30 guys, and even 80-20 guys.

But no one who’s 99-1% policy/politics.

Except Bob Gordon.

 

 

 

 

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