Essex County Democratic Chairman Says it’s Too Early to Move on a New Speaker


The dominoes are falling and they’re falling with South Jersey intentions of flattening Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32), but Essex County – big and containing a lot of moving pieces – isn’t there yet when it comes to turning out Prieto in favor of Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) of Middlesex.

“Our position is this is too early,” Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones told InsiderNJ. “However, obviously things have accelerated. There’s movement, and when there is significant movement I have to have discussions with our delegation.”

Jones said he is indeed taking everyone’s temperature in the Essex delegation right now.

“In essence that is where we are,” the chairman said. “We believe it’s too early but at the same time if discussions are being held, we have to be part and parcel. I’m never going to bully my caucus. My style is listening and consensus appreciation. It’s too early. We will hold our powder, but I told them as early as this morning that I have got to keep them informed and we are caucusing on a routine basis.”

Earlier this evening, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) told InsiderNJ that he does not appreciate the efforts of South Jersey and Middlesex to seal the deal for Coughlin at this time.

Another Essex source in the delegation expressed dismay, voicing appreciation for Prieto but also weariness over some of the people around the speaker, talking out the up and downsides of holding onto to him.

There’s also the Assemblywoman Blonnie Watson factor. She holds a 29th District seat now, but is not running for reelection. Shanique Speight of Newark’s Central Ward has the support of Jones’ organization to replace her.

Others in the delegation:

Assemblyman Tom Giblin of LD34

Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver of LD34

Assemblywoman Cleo Tucker of LD28

Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin of LD29

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey of LD27


Assemblyman John McKeon of LD27.

Prieto turned out Oliver to get the speakership when South Jersey cut a deal with Hudson around Essex in 2013. It’s difficult to now picture Oliver putting her own neck on the line for the colleague who stiffed her. But Oliver also detests the South Jersey machine and never got along with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3). One half of South Jersey’s run around first Essex, and then Hudson, to now attach itself to Middlesex empowers Sweeney for another term. Maybe Oliver would back Prieto if it meant weakening the south.

Likewise, Giblin’s a loyal public sector labor backer who feels no loving kinship with the south.

Mayor Ras Baraka’s loyal soldier in Trenton, Tucker won’t rush in to back a deal primarily benefiting South Jersey.

Pintor Marin works for the county, and so has less autonomy than others, but she’s been a Prieto fan.

Jasey is cLose to state Senator Dick Codey (D-27) who abhors South Jersey; and McKeon is independent and footloose with politics right now and unpredictable.

It’s important to remember that Union County Sheriff Joe Cryan, who’s running for senate in the 20th District, backed his old foe Sweeney for senate prez in part because he has a strong relationship with Middlesex and Coughlin. If he could see his way to backing the deal that maintains southern clout, it’s not inconceivable to think of anyone on the above list rationalizing a way to embrace Coughlin.

But Essex on Tuesday evening remained collectively undecided, while Passaic, Bergen and Hudson were with Prieto – all but Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37).




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