As Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) navigated the crowd at state Senator Brian P. Stack’s (D-33) rally for Phil Murphy earlier this month, a Hudson insider buttonholed InsiderNJ to make his case for why the speaker’s battle isn’t over.
The source recalled a 2001 campaign trail moment as what he said was evidence of how loyalties can suddenly change, and how a governor-elect can make a stronger impact on legislative leadership than can a gubernatorial candidate.
“I was standing right there,” the source said, hovering near the stage in Schuetzen Park, “when Jim McGreevey eyed Joe Doria in the crowd and said, ‘You’re my guy.'”
Doria appeared prepared to serve another term in the leadership role (he was actually minority leader at the time), and the source said Doria seemed assured of candidate McGreevey’s support. But once empowered by the 2001 general election, McGreevey made a play for his own molded speaker, then-Assemblyman (and later Congressman) Albio Sires.
“I wouldn’t say that this is over yet, based on what I saw happen in 2001,” argued the source, referring to Prieto’s fight to stay on the speaker’s throne in the face of a challenge by the South Jersey-backed Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) of Middlesex.
Perhaps ironically, it was the retirement of now-Congressman Sires that was supposed to pave a path for Prieto out of of the speakership on the same Hudson County glide path. But Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s decision to back out of the governor’s race – and Sires’ decision to remain a congressman rather than retire the seat to Prieto – changed that dynamic.