The Trenton triumvirate of Murphy-Sweeney-Coughlin reigned for the past three years, dysfunctional and characterized by lingering hurt feelings and ill will from the 2017 election cycle that resolved ahead of the 2021 reelection cycle, in time to ensure that all three guys will apparently survive politically on their thrones for another five years.
They don’t share a particularly chummy history, which you wouldn’t know if you observed Phil Murphy (governor), Steve Sweeney (senate president) and Craig Coughlin (speaker) at the 2021 budget signing, where they did their best to project the behaviors of wise-cracking cast members ready to go out and grab beers together after filming the government equivalent to The Expendables, as if they were old pals who had only been kidding around the whole time.
But the question for a Democratic Party that passed over women and Blacks and Hispanics in its quest to get to Joe Biden (another supposedly Irish guy) as the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, is which of these public servants, in your estimation, is indeed expendable, if the state gets serious about having a leadership structure at the Statehouse that actually resembles the state.
The three of them are sturdy contenders to stick around, each in his own right.
What he lacks in education, Sweeney makes up for in knowing how the political machine works and maintaining focus on public sector unions as the problem while mostly protecting private sector unions (and cops and fire) from implementing meaningful reforms that would expand their ranks to benefit urban populations. He’s been on the seat of power since 2009, when the Democratic Party decided it would be in their interest to abandon a seasoned and independent leader like former Governor Dick Codey to install a guy who – like incoming Republican Governor Chris Christie – could contribute to placing the onus for New Jersey’s problems squarely on state workers.
What he lacks in veteran presence, Coughlin makes up for in standing at the right place at the right time. He’s kind of the Billy Wyman of the Legislature. He has the benefit of hailing from Middlesex, which was the only county of consequence really left that hadn’t yet fielded a speaker. Essex had Sheila Oliver before they dumped her. Hudson had Vinny Prieto before they got rid of him. Middlesex continued to operate in total obeisance within the South Jersey political orbit, and repayment for their loyalty was not veteran state Senator Bob Smith (D-17) or state Senator Joe Vitale (D-19), who would have displaced Sweeney, but relative lower house nobody Coughlin.
What he lacks in longstanding connectivity to New Jersey, former diner dishwasher turned Goldman Sachs multi-millionaire Murphy more than made up for by convincing the New Jersey Democratic organizations that they wouldn’t have to do their jobs if they made him their candidate for governor. All they had to do was get behind him and they could all present a unified front against that fearsome operation otherwise known as the New Jersey Republican Party.
Here’s the question: