Middlesex County Democrats want to thump the drums of power in the aftermath of an election that wiped out Steve Sweeney, but former Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz said the augmentation of a senator to the Middlesex arsenal belies a deeper story of apathy in the Democratic ranks.
Murphy, who had made several ribbon cutting stops in Perth Amboy on the campaign trail, encountered a moribund result in the aftermath of the election. In the 7-1 Democratic registration town with 13,281 Democrats, 2,254 Republicans and 11,737 unaffiliated voters, Murphy and Ciattarelli fought it out for scraps.
“The Democratic Party is losing their base among Latino voters,” Diaz told InsiderNJ. “This should be a wakeup call. The numbers are not there.”
Murphy won Perth Amboy unofficially, but Ciattarelli kept it close, in low voter turnout territory.
“The Democratic Party needs to understand it’s not like it used to be; Latinos are waking up,” said Diaz, herself a Democrat who lost the mayoralty last year to the Middlesex County Democratic Party’s chosen candidate.
“There was no excitement, no energy,” Diaz said of Perth Amboy. “It reminds me of… [former Governor Jon] Corzine,” who lost his reelection to Republican Chris Christie.
Diaz initially won the mayoralty in her hometown in 2008, the same year organic votes propelled Barack Obama to power. The bank teller turned sharp-elbowed pol toppled Middlesex County strongman Joe Vas, and won reelection in 2012 and 2016, while bucking the Middlesex. Tired of losing, the Middlesex machine got behind local Democratic Party Chairman Helmin Caba (who was also a councilman), whose organization backed the referendum question changing rules for Perth Amboy’s mayoral election so that the victor needs to get 50% plus one to avoid a runoff, a devious piece of political strategy designed to get rid of the independent-minded Diaz.