Host to Menendez and Sherrill on the Same Night, Essex Dems Delight in Big Picture Power Projection

Menendez and DiVincenzo.

WEST ORANGE – They got this.

Gill on the move.

New Jersey may be fraught with drama and dour on self-reflection over its own overall lack of fitness in being able to cough – from out of its own gloomy swamps – a reverberating message to President Donald J. Trump.

But Essex – able to house all its own bitternesses, injured egos, divisions, contradictions, irreconcilable urban and suburban interests, west, east, and barely buried rivalries under one roof – will deliver.

“He’s not the commander in chief,” Menendez said of Trump. “He’s the divider in chief of the nation.”

So apparently divide and conquer won’t work here, in the county that claims New Jersey’s most registered Democrats. “The road to victory comes through Essex County, you cannot win in New Jersey unless you win Essex county,” said the senator.

The machine and independent Democrats are supposed to be at odds.

But this was the party organization of both U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and CD-11 candidate Mikie Sherrill.

Fontoura and Sherrill.

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo (“the finest county executive in all of the state,” according to Menendez) and former Governor Dick Codey don’t get along.

But they roamed the same carpet at Mayfair Farms. DiVincenzo could barely speak. He’s ill. But doggedly present.

They say the organization doesn’t have a deep and loving relationship with Governor Phil Murphy.

But there was Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver in the honored position at the front of the room.

Gill and Pintor Marin.

There was Murphy minder (and Essex Freeholder President) Brendan Gill, chair of the Montclair Democratic Organization, all smiles in the audience.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka fought the machine to land the throne in Brick City.

But there was Alturrick Kenney – a Baraka ally and the organization’s candidate for surrogate – working every table, eagerly grabbing every hand. His campaign manager, Rahaman Muhammad, Baraka’s deputy mayor – lingered.

Hudson and Essex are supposed to have their frayed relations, the consequence of power and proximity.

There was state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) at the front of the room building up Menendez.

“I can testify that when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, Senator Menendez stood by New Jersey

Timberlake, right, with DiVincenzo, Jr.

families… when it comes to Puerto Rico, he has also stood by our side because he understands the intimate relationship between New Jersey and the island,” said Ruiz.

The room contained, among many others, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., Essex County Democratic Organization Chairman Leroy Jones, Senator Ronald Rice, state Senator Nia Gill, Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, Assemblyman Tom Giblin, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, East Orange Council President Chris James, East Orange Mayor

From left: Barrett, Sherrill, Caputo.

Ted Green, Essex Freeholder Rufus Johnson, Essex Freeholder Pat Sebold, Essex Clerk Chris Durkin, Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, Newark East Ward chieftain Joe Parlavecchio, SEIU 32BJ Chief Kevin Brown, Livingston Councilman Shawn Klein, Livingston Deputy Mayor Al Anthony, Montclair Deputy Mayor Bob Russo, former Assemblyman Bill Payne, Bloomfield Mayor Mike Venezia, North Ward leader Adrienne Davis, veteran operative Jermaine James, Sarah Jones, and Democratic State Committeeman Tom Barrett.

Mike Critchley, counsel for the Senate Majority Office’s Select Legislative Committee, was in the room.

Neighboring Hudson-based Senator Sandra Cunningham was in the room.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, spoke at the event, incurring the ire of Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26), who’s in a dogfight with Sherrill.  “If he was truly sensitive to the #me2 movement, he wouldn’t get himself embroiled in baseless tortured logic as he goes on to see Donald Trump to fund his failing campaign,” Chairman Jones said of Webber’s denunciation of the controversial Ellison.

Muhammed, left.

All the political weight of these lieutenants, ward captains and attendant subordinate muscle is supposed to perform sufficiently two weeks from today to drive not only Menendez back into power but Sherrill over Webber.

Ruiz introduced Sherrill as a “kick ass woman.”


“We need a tax plan that invests in our middle class families,” the CD-11 Democratic candidate told the crowd. “We have got to get back the state and local property tax deduction. We need quality and affordable healthcare for every single person in this country. We need to make sure that people with preexisting conditions are covered, that we can keep our kids on our healthcare until they’re 26; that we don’t face an age tax for our seniors. We have got to get this done here. Everybody knows we’ve got to get the Gateway Tunnel funded. We have got get our infrastructure.”

She saw a familiar face at one of the tables.

“I’m happy to see Congressman Payne here,” she said. “But this congress will not invest in New Jersey, which is why we need new leadership in this congress.”

The Patriarch of the Paynes, left.

She zeroed in on her opponent in one of the state’s most-watched battleground contests, where the retiring congressman occupied the Morris – not Essex – portion of the district.

“I don’t think Assemblyman Webber is up to the task,” Sherrill said to cheers. “He supports the tax bill. No other member of the North Jersey delegation supported it. He’s in favor of repealing healthcare. Their plan was to vote to repeal over 70 times. He is somebody who doesn’t protect our values.” She cited Webber’s attempt to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage, his vote against equal pay for women, and his efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

“I know we can do this because we are going to pull the vote out of Essex County to make sure our voice is heard in Washington,” said Sherrill.

Menendez wasn’t there anymore.


They kept him on the move.

He had three simultaneous events.

But the same people that had emptied their seats for him now cleared them for Sherrill.

There were two weeks on the clock.

And counting.

They looked alive in Essex tonight, figuring that’s where it would count, as it often does, as it will for Menendez and Sherrill, veteran faces grinning through those seemingly heart-rending and besieging narratives that they will live with and turn, so they said – when it’s all over – into evidence, finally, of indisputable political power.

Johnson, Green, James.
Chairman Jones, left.
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