Election Day Significance: The Return of Joe Cryan in LD20


New Jersey insiders have plodded through the closing hours or the primary election of 2017 only to be greeted by a crummy Election Day rain. But while the election has felt at times like a low gear non-event, several significant factors should be considered as longer term game changers, starting in LD20.

In that Democratic district comprised of Elizabeth, Union Twp. and Hillside, former Assemblyman (and current Union County Sheriff) Joe Cryan of Union Twp. (pictured above with Montclair Councilman Bob Russo) appears on the ballot today, running for the seat of retiring state Senator Ray  Lesniak (D-20).

The former assembly majority leader who came close to being speaker, son of the late John Cryan, a Democratic Party leader in Essex County, Cryan served as Democratic Party Chairman during the Jon Corzine years and was regarded by most as a highly effective, strategic, and motivated political animal. A champion of public workers, he ran afoul of South Jersey Democrats when Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) partnered with Governor Chris Christie to overhaul the public pensions and benefits system.

In his return to the legislature this year, Cryan’s decision to support Sweeney’s return to the senate presidency surprised some of his backers still smarting from the scrappy sheriff’s earlier wars with South Jersey. But it shouldn’t. Cryan has strong ties to Middlesex County, and is friends with Middesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe, Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19), Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac and others close to the Woodbridge establishment brain trust.

Cryan’s ascent can be seen on one level as a strengthening of the ties between Middlesex and Union and the potential empowerment of Union. It should be remembered too that Cryan – an Essex native who cut his political teeth on the sawdust-covered tavern floors of his father – has strong ties to Essex.

He was also a fairly early – and enthusiastic – backer of the candidacy of Democratic front-runner Phil Murphy, who’s also on the ballot today, whose arguably strongest earliest significant political alliances developed out of Middlesex.

Given his constant motion in dedicated fashion to specific ends, his organizing ability proven in past elections, leadership skills, and Wagnerian Viking headdress policy wonk chops, the imminent return to Trenton of Cryan, this voraciously political person – set in motion by today’s primary – will emerge as one of the significant factors for Trenton caucus politics in the foreseeable future.

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