Jim Johnson, the attorney and former assistant secretary of the treasury from Montclair who ran a never-say-die progressive campaign for governor and lost in the June Democratic Primary, wouldn’t rule out a run for county executive next year when prodded by InsiderNJ amid ongoing countywide rumblings.
A source earlier this week noted that an emissary or two connected to the Black Ministers of Essex County poked Johnson on his prospects for a 2018 run against powerful incumbent Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
“I think it’s fair to say that I’ve heard from serious and thoughtful people, including, most importantly, my family, about what my next steps should be,” Johnson told InsiderNJ, but elected not to elaborate further on the matter.
“Without focusing on any particular position or even industry, I haven’t ruled anything in or out,” he added. “Just focused on family and enjoying the summer.”
Johnson’s aggressive salvos against eventual Democratic nominee Phil Murphy hardly created a loving atmosphere for Johnson in Murphy World, and if he were to undertake a run on DiVincenzo he would find himself in the crosshairs of a thick-set party establishment atop a billion dollars-worth of patronage in self-protection mode.
“I see a repeat of what happened to Steve Fulop when he ran against Menendez in 2004,” a party source said blandly, when asked about Johnson’s chances if he pulled the cord on a run.
Still, some anti-establishment Democrats see soft underbelly potential in Joe D, who backed the reelection of Republican Governor Chris Christie in 2013, and insist on exacting a pound of flesh. But the county executive backed Murphy for governor and commands a stout party organization, which includes the fierce support of Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones.
The mildly beseeching progressive overtones around Johnson somewhat echo the aftermath of another unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor. In 2013, when Barbara Buono failed to take out Christie, handfuls of Essex Democrats irked by DiVincenzo tried to get her to return to her Essex roots but ultimately could not persuade the former state senator from Middlesex that she should seek revenge against the Christie-enabling county exec.