LD36 Agony: The Pratfalls of a Volatile and Politically Thorny District

Had Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop become governor, sources say Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) had a good chance of succeeding Vincent Prieto as speaker. But Fulop’s decision not to run and the rise of Phil Murphy in conjunction with a hardening of South Jersey power with Middlesex County – in part as punishment to those northern chairs who selected Murphy over Steve Sweeney for the throne of executive power – put Schaer out of reach of the speaker’s chair.

Now Schaer, a budget chair forced to part with that plum position in the aftermath of Essex leaping free of the damaged quad county alliance and joining forces with Middlesex and South Jersey, appears doomed to a legislative backbench wilderness. Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29) will succeed him, the meager morsel Essex gets in exchange for ripping itself away from Passaic, Bergen and Hudson and demonstrating fealty to the South and newfound loyalty to Essex.

So what’s next for Schaer, the man whom many regard as one of the legislature’s smartest personages?

“He’s going to the administration,” a source told InsiderNJ. “I’m hearing DOBI [Department of Banking and Insurance]. Gary will be taken care of. There’s no reason for him to go and sit in the peanut gallery. He’s better than that.”

But InsiderNJ is also hearing the name of Schaer slate mate Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-36) for DOBI.

Or Department of Education.

or

Bergen Prosecutor.

One thing is true.

There is movement in LD36, that legislative district crow’s nested by state Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36), who hasn’t always gotten along with Schaer, in large part because Sarlo has always taken pains to maintain good relations  with South Jersey, while Schaer appeared more willing to wager his future on that portion of that third of the quad county alliance that chose its power projection as Murphy and not South Jersey.

How deep is the Sarlo-Schaer disaffection?

One source told InsiderNJ that Schaer’s first preference for a cabinet position wouldn’t have been DOBI, but treasurer, and that’s a position that Murphy already filled with Assemblywoman Liz Muoio (D-15).

If Schaer presented a senate confirmation problem for treasurer based on his decision to throw in with the Sweeney-detested State Party Chairman John Currie (Passaic) and Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairman (and Speaker) Vincent Prieto, might his chances for a crack at DOBI be better simply because it wasn’t his first choice?

That question lingers even as sources continue to push the name of Caride as a Murphy administration sure-shot.

The possibility of both Schaer and Caride simultaneously leaving the legislature would at least solve an inter-organizational headache of giving the chairs a chance to replace Caride with a Latina from Passaic, that municipality in the district most populated with Hispanics and currently served by Schaer. But it would also have to trigger a wave of worry in Murphy World.

Both Schaer and Caride threw in with Murpy’s allies and now run the risk of suffering the consequences, arguably adding to their mutual ambitions to get out of the legislature.

But if they leave, will Sarlo be in a position to fill their seats with two South-friendly replacements who in a firefight – and this lame duck session more than anything supplies exhibit A for less than friendly Murphy-Sweeney relations – will go with the South over Currie and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato?

Latino groups want Caride to get something as a consolation prize for Murphy World floating her name during the LG food fight.

Combinations of sources have put forward the possible administrative landing zone thus: Schaer at Banking and Insurance and Caride at Education. But given the hard early collisions with the South, and the departure already of one of those pro-Murph votes in Muoio, Murphy will have to count every head now with an eye to preserving at least some portion of a lower house alliance with southern relations already derailed.

Amid a lot of volatility in LD36 right now, bank at least on this: if indeed Murphy selects Schaer and Caride, both will sail through the senate – if Sarlo gets to pick their successors in the assembly.

 

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