Key Operatives to Watch as the 2018 Campaign Season Intensifies


Brendan Gill

The Essex County-based operative (and Freeholder) had a great two-year run as the brains behind the statewide Phil Murphy operation. Now he has reins of the Andre Sayegh campaign in the May nonpartisan season (with veteran field hand Dave Parano), overlapped by the much-watched campaign of CD11 hopeful (and former Navy helicopter pilot) Mikie Sherrill.

Henry Sosa

The Paterson operative helped Maritza Davila in 2014 and Shahin Khalique in 2016. Now he’s citywide again as the campaign manager of the (to date) poorly funded Alex Mendez for Mayor Campaign as he once again helps Davila.

Colston Reid

Tested in LD2 last year as the campaign manager of Bell-Mazzeo-Armato, Reid resurfaced in 2018 as the manager for the thus far very successful campaign of Tom Malinowski for Congress. Having won the line in Hunterdon, Warren, Morris, Union and Essex counties (and looking ahead to the Somerset Convention on Wednesday evening) Malinowski occupies the status of frontrunner in the race for the CD7 Democratic nomination.

Hugin minder Chris Russell.

Chris Russell

Having run a gritty, up-by-the-bootstraps gubernatorial campaign last year for Jack Ciattarelli, the Jackson Republican name brand has returned as the adviser/strategist for Bob Hugin for Senate and as the point man to protect the reelection of U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3).

Phil Valenziano

Formerly an operative for the Iowa Republican Party, Valenziano has East Coast roots, as he attempts to get Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26) through the GOP Primary and into the Congressional Seat in District 11 currently occupied by the retiring U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

Mike Beson and Pat Politano 

The pair of veteran Democratic Party operatives are in the engine room of the Josh Welle Campaign in CD4, which has so far smothered Jim Keady for Congress in the pre-primary season.

Jim Hilk 

Formerly regional field director for New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Hilk serves as campaign manager for incumbent U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), who’s on the hot seat this year in a district that the Cook Report earlier this month designated a “toss up.”

Alison Murphy

State Senator Jeff Van Drew‘s long-serving chief of staff is at the control panel for his U.S. Congressional Bid in District 2 as the Democrat attempts to get through some turbulent primary weather (he faces questions about his support for the National Rifle Association) and land the seat now occupied by retiring U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2).

Pablo Fonseca

The human bull who head-butted Cory Booker to citywide success carries on with two simultaneously activated May nonpartisan campaigns: Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins in Newark, and Alex Cruz in Paterson. Some insiders wonder if this cycle is not finally Fonseca’s Waterloo, with fronts in both Newark and Paterson tempting the Duke of Wellington-Gebhard von Blucher squeeze play comparison.

Joe DeMarco

Locally politically he’s known as something akin to Kirk on the bridge of the Enterprise, the businessman manager in Bayonne (who doubles as campaign manager for Mayor Jimmy Davis).

Michael Byrne

The lowkey GOP operative finds himself in great position as the campaign manager of Singh for Congress in the 2nd District. Singh has won four county lines in the pre-primary season to put himself squarely in charge of the Republican Primary.

Mike Soliman

Now a principal at Mercury, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez‘s (D-NJ) former state director will no doubt continue to play a significant role as part of the incumbent Democrat’s statewide reelection apparatus as Menendez pursues another six-year term.

Rasheeda Smith

The veteran hand from Donald Payne, Jr. World is handling field operations for Mikie Sherrill for Congress.

Al Barlas and Peter Murphy 

The prime operatives behind the candidacy of CD11 Republican candidate Tony Ghee, Essex County GOP Chairman Barlas shoulders the day-to-day strategic duties for the moment, with Murphy tasked to drive the same numerical turnout numbers in Totowa and Wayne that catapulted state Senator Kristin Corrado (D-40) to power. Ghee will be on the phones raising money.

Craig Guy

Granted, it bleeds into 2019. But it’s happening right now. The chief of staff to Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise stands at the center of a fast-developing Hudson County war as state Senator Brian P. Stack and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop follow through on their plan to “go in another direction.” Guy – along with communications chief Phil Swibinski – will be on the frontlines of trying to protect DeGise and help him stay on optimal footing for 2019.

Mark Albiez

Fulop’s chief of staff evidently looked DeGise in the eye in the Coach House Diner and told him, “We’re going in another direction.” There is considerable speculation about Albiez’s long-standing trusted behind the scenes role potentially materializing at some point into a full-blown candidacy to replace DeGise.

Andrew Trenk 

He’s on two fronts in the May nonpartisan cycle. In Long Branch, he’s serving as campaign manager to incumbent Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider, who faces a challenge this year from Councilman John Pallone. In Paterson, he works as a consultant to Ward 3 Councilman Bill McKoy, who’s running for mayor in arguably the thorniest contest of the season.


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