With apologies to Woody Allen, Bob Menendez’s corruption meltdown and key party organizations’ subsequent decision to give him the heave ho accelerated their timeline to make coordinated leadership moves.
Like U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) before him, perhaps U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3) simply marches to his own drummer.
But it is also conceivable that he marches to his own drummer while absorbing the intel of insiders fiercely aware of what the machine is and does.
The peculiar language of Kim’s announcement intrigues, because the congressman specifically says he is running against Menendez.
He’s not, evidently, running simply for the senate seat, regardless of whether Menendez exists or does not exist.
He’s running against Menendez.
Why is that significant?
It suggests the capacity for Burlington County, whether Kim endorses this or not, to play within that runway of time in which Menendez persists in being a candidate in 2024.
“I am not going anywhere,” he said.
Good, says the establishment, and those in Burlington looking to make moves behind Kim’s audacious ambition.
These things all come together at once.
So, the Essex-Bergen-Passaic-Middlesex eject button on Menendez hastens their decision-making on all slots in question.
Of course, Hudson can’t move right now.
That’s Menendez’s home county.
But did Burlington catch on that the party leadership of those muscled up counties in question have settled the terrain without BurlCo’s input and thereby propel Kim into the race?
Let’s look at the pieces that we cannot ignore.
U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11) is the Essex County favorite for statewide office.
If Bergen supports her for governor or senate, it’s because Essex backs U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) for governor or senate.
Now, who gets what?
The Democratic Party is in shambles right now because of Mennedez.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) knows that.
He needs to plug a star into Menendez’s seat, someone who can galvanize the electorate, especially with President Joe Biden at the top of the ticket next year.
Schumer needs Sherrill.
Whatever the gubernatorial aspirations for Sherrill among the New Jersey crum bums that run things here, Schumer needs Sherrill.
So, Sherrill seems – at this moment in time – more likely for U.S. Senate than governor – as a matter of national mission critical priority for Democrats.
That puts Gottheimer in position as the gubernatorial candidate in 2025.
What about Middlesex?
They were on the same email activation chain that told Menendez to resign.
They’re part of this.
They already have Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) at speaker.
Well, not so fast.
The bigger, brasher, more tyrannosaurus rex version of the party organization deserves more than merely Coughlin.
How about Craig for governor?
Can’t animate the churches.
Can’t really animate anyone.
Doesn’t have the money or pizzazz of Gottheimer.
Not a demagogue, either.
Ok, Coughlin retires, his law firm gets a dump truck of contracts backed up to it, and they put Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) or Senator Joe Vitale (D-19) in as senate president.
What about sitting Senate President Nick Scutari?
Well, they could keep him there and keep Coughlin there. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But any doubts about Scutari’s political lifespan (Sean Caddle and Tony Tex) might make them reconsider the leadership configuration, even with Scutari performing admirably for the organization.
Middlesex, in any event, has an option.
An option, incidentally, that Burlington doesn’t have.
Hence, the Kim senate candidacy.
Does the candidacy come into being neatly and with complete organizational coherence? No. But then again, almost any politician already in higher office has designs on the presidency and believes in a divinely ordained ascent.
Devious underground moves fold into the purest of great man aspiration.
What about speaker in that Essex-Middlesex-Bergen-Passaic endorsed deal?
They kick speaker to Hudson.
Whatever Senator Brian P. Stack-backed person over there who fits the bill, will get the bill.
But what if Hudson doesn’t move?
Go to Burlington.
Throw a bone over there to someone to shake off Andy.
You get speaker, Burlington.
Best we can do.
Kim thinks he can be senator.
So, the Essex-Middlesex-Bergen-Passaic machine goes in-hose and goes to war with all those candidates, and, say, Shavonda Sumter as speaker.
What about Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop?
Plug him in the congressional seat.
The seat currently occupied by the son of embattled U.S. Senator Menendez.
What if Hudson doesn’t budge?
Well, then beat him in a primary.
What if he forms an alliance with Kim and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka decides to jump in and create more of a headache for Essex?
If Fulop’s already in the race, Baraka off the line will create more trouble for Fulop than the organization.
But the bottom line, with Kim in and People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm in, canceling each other out somewhat for the progressive vote, Sherrill looked like the Democrats’ most obvious play.
If New Jersey Democrats wanted her for governor in 2025, they couldn’t put a lid on Schumer in 2024.
Chuck wouldn’t mess around.
Sherrill or bust.
Gottheimer could take his shot, with an incipient deal for Trenton leadership intact.