Lou Stellato had looked like the most likely Democratic county chair to back Steve Fulop for governor and when Fulop opted not to run in 2016, the Bergen chair tethered himself to the three other chairs from North Jersey and declared his support for Phil Murphy.
That appeared to all but end the guv’s contest – at least for the Democratc Party and maybe period.
But Murphy world and all the attendant party pieces around it, mostly the other chairs, more than Murphy, who doesn’t keep score like, for example Chris Christie, remembered the history. They remembered that Stellato had looked like he was leaning Fulop, while others, among them Middlesex County Democratic Committee Pooh-bah Kevin McCabe, fancied Murphy early. McCabe fancied Murphy when Essex was still playing footsy with Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3). So McCabe, keeping his delegation together the same way Nick Sacco kept his together in 2013 and the same way Joe DiVincenzo cohered his in 2009, would eventually get a South Jersey pay off while Stellato (and Prieto, and Currie) would simultaneously come up empty-handed.
North Jersey – but for the fig leaf of LG – would have to, that’s how the game works.
And now that reckoning appears to have arrived as North Jersey Democrats head in this evening for one last what-the-hell-do-we-do-now gutcheck, their hopes of driving someone like Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) across the speakership finish line all but suffocated under the triumphal march of Craig Couglin and Kevin McCabe from Middlesex.
“No one cares who the president and speaker are as long as Murphy is governor,” one dog-eared Bergenite tried, running the argument up the InsiderNJ flagpole amid the statewide din of South Jersey and Middlesex chest-thumping and mild hand-wringing over Murphy’s place in that universe.
Coming up on the scheduled 5:30 p.m. meeting, the last pieces of conversation around Stellato seemed to revolve around whether those scraps of controllable Bergen delegates should throw in on a somewhat humiliating press release backing Coughlin for speaker, or just let it ride. Throughout the text messaged grumbling in the lead up persisted the hopeless observation that Bergen Democrats might as well post a billboard: ‘Wanted, a Controllable Senator and Accompanying Same-Page Assembly People.”
“I mean, if the pay off is people who don’t think for themselves or stand on their own two feet, who even needs those ‘leadership’ posts?” said a Bergen source, echoing the insight of another source who offered, “Does Craig Coughlin really think he’s in there on his own merits? I think Sheila Oliver and Vinny Prieto can give Craig some idea of where this is eventually going to go.”