In the inimitable words of Daryl Isherwood:
“And so it begins.”
Paul Juliano’s Bergen County Democratic Committee Gala last night at the Venetian featured the gentle jockeying of four men said to be in the 2025 gubernatorial hunt.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer
Speaker Craig Coughlin
Former Senate President Steve Sweeney.
And one woman –
U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill.
It was a 20-minute drive for Fulop over to Bergen.
Probably ten minutes for Gottheimer.
Half an hour for Sherrill.
Forty-five minutes for Coughlin.
Of course, it was a little longer for the Gloucester-based Sweeney as the labor leader operating with a huge regional deficit tries to bench press Democratic Party voter-rich North Jersey.
There were jeers from the shadows.
Someone pointed out that Sweeney can only win – or even appear to have a shot at a lane – if the wriggling egos of multiple North Jersey candidates force feed themselves into the Democratic Primary contest, killing one another to give a platform to the South Jerseyan.
Fulop. Gottheimer. Sherrill (who was also in Morris last night, alongside Hudson star Rob Menendez). Ras Baraka. Sean Spiller. Coughlin.
Otherwise, forget it.
If Sweeney presented as an ongoing ambitious out-of-town longshot, Fulop and Gottheimer
arm-wrestled – in decorous fashion – for the right to own the North Jersey room.
Even though he’s North Jersey, most insiders see Fulop as an outsider as well, to a possible establishment Bergen-Essex deal that would parcel some version of statewide power to Gottheimer and Sherrill.
One gets a U.S. Senate seat.
The other gets governor.
But what about Middlesex?
Well, there’s the rub.
And maybe Fulop’s shot. He’s from over there, and if he can cement Middlesex to Hudson maybe he starts with something.
That said, insiders says, Middlesex has sufficient power to dream bigger than merely the senate presidency.
And Coughlin was there, of course, an organizationally muscled-up guy with Party Chairman Kevin McCabe at his side, sitting on a statewide perch – unlike Sweeney.
Last night belonged to Bergen, however, and Juliano, as the gracious host – with a deft touch when it comes to people – fed his committee members the entertaining spectacle of fledgling gubernatorial contenders, five of them to be exact.
Here’s the question: