In 2017, the appearance on the landscape of a financially well-connected challenger left Steve Sweeney’s insular political universe jarred and his faith in the system shaken.
Someone could actually run against him.
That was okay for the senators in LD2 or LD14 or LD38; or had been during the era of Republican Governor Chris Christie. Senate President Sweeney was supposed to be on consecrated ground in LD3.
All that changed when affable Phil Murphy landed on the scene.
He’d tell Sweeney he was the greatest.
Meanwhile, paratroopers with NJEA uniforms were dropping into the prez’s Gloucester County backyard.
Somehow it didn’t add up, Sweeney figured, and the bitterness lingered with a sort of vengeance until COVID-19 brought the strapping ironworker to heel on the millionaire’s tax and the quickening atmosphere around reelection forced both Sweeney and Murphy into self-protection mode.
But they weren’t the only two bearhugging.
Now, four years after the fiasco of an NJEA-fueled Republican running against him forced the most expensive legislative contest in U.S. history, a sense of unthreatened normalcy seems to have returned to the 3rd District, shaped in part by an LD2 contest that looks reliably hellish, and the relatively new presence in the neighboring 1st District of Republican state Senator Mike Testa (R-1).
When it comes to playing footsie with the would-be enemy, Testa’s the new Christie.
As long as Testa keeps his attentions firmly focused on Sweeney nemesis (and fellow Democrat) Governor Phil Murphy, he’s useful to have around.
You don’t run against me, and I don’t run against you.
At least that’s what it looks like.
“I don’t know, some non-union truck driver,” a South Jersey source told InsiderNJ, when asked who the GOP was running against Sweeney.
The source, a Sweeney devotee, hardly sounded concerned – even distracted by the question.
What? You don’t get it. There ain’t a race over there this year.
A few days later, InsiderNJ broached the same question, except concerning Republican Testa.
“Don’t know,” the source said, adding, “My sense is that GN3 and Sweeney do not have this district as a priority.”
LD2 will be the warzone, the source suspected.
“Testa and Sweeney may have a better relationship than Van Drew and Sweeney ever had,” the source added, almost as an afterthought, reflecting on former Democrat Jeff Van Drew, whose legendary uniform changing from D to R come budget time within the GN3-Sweeney-Christie constellation actually finally propelled him to become a full-fledged Republican, infuriating Sweeney.
Van Drew didn’t get the joke, apparently.
In any case, Testa supposedly does.
Hence, a terrain devoid of star power challengers in LD1 and LD3 this year.
Don’t even look for head fake cash there, another source said, almost bored.
So that’s how it’s going to be.
Two peas in a pod, with all the suppressed aggression and penchant for gladiatorial combat projected like a horizontal klieg light from Cumberland and Gloucester into Atlantic City (and also, presumably into LD8, which the Democrats want to defend, and which historically has a seesaw relationship with LD2 and LD1), but primarily LD2 – where two guys not named Testa and Sweeney will put it all on the line.