The Implications of Hughes and other Bar Note Reflections

Norcross and McCabe

Insiders saw the larger implications of Dan Benson’s blowout of Brian Hughes on Sunday, unable to quell an impulse to endlessly endzone dance over the charred, unmanned swivel turret remains of the South Jersey Democratic Party.

On the abbreviated Risk map that constitutes New Jersey politics, power broker George Norcross III had positioned his calvary behind Hughes, only to get tank treaded by Benson, in a stunning 80-20% ravaging, or more than just a cocktail party win for Middlesex County.

Not that the results lacked a certain conversational appeal. But the tenor of polite debate more pointedly revolved around whether the Norcross empire went down with Andrzejczak, or Sweeney, or the state party fracas, or redistricting, or – now, at last – Mercer.

“It was, in fact, [Mike] Testa’s win in LD-1, which revealed the depth of dislocation,” opinioned one pigs-in-blanketed insider, while another stuck to making the case for Steve Sweeney’s 2021 loss as the demarcation of expiration.

Still others insisted on seeing Hughes’ collapse as the true mark of South Jersey’s denouement, arguing for the optical absurdity of Norcross trying to buttonhole Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin, and the boss and Sweeney getting rebuffed by Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo in an attempt to mount an offensive against state Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14).

South Jersey’s playground stomp-around of Mercer smacked of somewhat unsophisticated overreach, they said, and of attempting to salvage a win to the north of their own turf amid the embers of their own empire. Taking a beating with Hughes in Mercer, while LD-4 and LD-3 lay dormant certainly spoke of misplaced priorities, gently argued one bemused insider. And so it went, as a Sweeney 2025 gubernatorial candidacy seemed inevitable, and an inevitably prolonged agonal gasp from South Jersey.

As Hughes tried to stand in fight with Norcross, the front office supposedly grew increasingly impatient, before Governor Phil Murphy – or a surrogate – got him on the phone post-convention and told him it was over.

DeAngelo kind of clinched it, his coming out in favor of Benson.

It deprived Hughes of oxygen, in a room where he already massively lacked oxygen.

More to the larger point, it revealed another detonation in the South Jersey political control room, even as Middlesex and its chairman, Kevin McCabe, could take considerable consolation in Benson’s victory. The almost inexplicably gigantic county had stood with Benson from the beginning, never blinking as GN3 cand company rattled at their doorstep.

Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, who also chairs the state party, more than happily prepared to stand with Benson, McCabe, Murphy, and DeAngelo, with the bonus of presiding over another beatdown of South Jersey perhaps more a rearview mirror image of delight than next-frontier political warfare, which may indeed prove to unfold with far more verve when Jones and McCabe fight over – or simply figure out – who succeeds Murphy.

McCabe and Jones
McCabe and Jones, respectively leaders of Essex and Middlesex.
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