Legislative Redistricting Deal Bar Napkin Notes

Sacco

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source this evening said Democrats and Republicans on the state legislative redistricting commission had reached the framework of a deal submitted to tiebreaker Philip Carchman – and it’s a doozy.

The map appears to make inevitable the collision of two lions of Hudson, older and younger, who circled each other for years and now appeared poised to go against each other with the younger of the two wielding a decided edge.

As part of the framework of the deal, state Senator Brian P. Stack (D-33) appeared to be an early favorite to unseat

Stack
Stack

state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32) (pictured, top) in a jammed-together West New York-hinged Hudson brawl – and maybe send him into retirement without a fight Sacco knows he can’t win.

“I think he taps out,” said a source, in reference to Sacco. “He hates going down there now. He’ll stay as mayor [of North Bergen].”

Another source said it’s common knowledge in the caucus that Sacco looks ahead now to retirement.

“As much as we all want to see Sacco versus Stack, Sacco’s toast, I think,” said the source.

There will be some Sacco saber rattling.

Where it actually goes – remember this map’s first contests will play out in 2023 – is another matter. The district only marginally favors Stack: 11K votes in Stack’s Union City, and 9K in Sacco’s North Bergen – but it’s the district Stack would want, based on the way he aggressively performs GOTV work.

Hudson mangled created some internal havoc early, with Sacco allies outraged.

On Friday afternoon, Sacco ally Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise fired off a statement, seeking a delay in the map’s affirmation.

As the tiebreaker, Carchman took a position against splitting Jersey City three ways after Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop sent a letter and some public opposition, so “at least some Democrats blaming him [Fulop] for Sacco on losing end of Stack matchup.”

Assemblyman Raj Mukerji (D-32) – currently a ticket-mate of Stack’s out of Jersey City – was described as a likely senator, in Hudson County, which experienced the greatest population growth spurt among New Jersey’s 21 counties over the last ten years.

From a source, which, if true would short circuit a Stack versus Sacco matchup: “All I’ve heard in the past 24 hours is that Sacco is probably retiring so this may be more of  an agreed deal.  I’m assuming what happened is something like trading Hoboken for Union City moving into Sacco’s in what was the Republican map.  Stack went to great lengths to stay in office and IMHO was probably behind the splitting JC three ways.  I was told he effectively had moved all gentrified areas in JC out of LD33 to stave off  any future competitors in 2023.   It’s not his base and he doesn’t govern to the more affluent areas like Hoboken.”

A second source said adamantly that there was no deal, ultimately proved by the DeGise letter. If Sacco was telling people he had tired of Trenton, apparently he wanted to go out by his own volition, and maybe with an heir apparent lined up to succeed him (see below).

“F-ck that,” said the source. “You think Hudson would let Nick run away from a fight? There’s no way.”

Menendez
Menendez

On paper, “it’s not a Stack map,” the source insisted, amid increasing outrage over Hudson getting hung up to dry on the map, with two 21st Century Frank Hagues getting pitted against each other. Still, the source acknowledged. withering by the minute, that U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) (and Hudson County powerhouse) would likely ultimately decide the direction of North Hudson.

Menendez is from Union City, Stack’s hometown, if that means anything.

Maybe it means everything.

“You cannot overestimate Union City being the seat of power in Hudson County,” the source said.

Senate Lion: LD27 Senator Dick Codey talks about NJEDA tax incentive programs
Senator Codey (D-27)

For his part, neighboring Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman LeRoy Jones (who co-chaired the apportionment commission with Republican Co-chair Al Barlas) can recruit at least one new senator, maybe two if the line doesn’t go to state Senator Nia Gill (D-34)/Senator Dick Codey (D-27).

That’s a big if.

Sources in Essex say Codey – who loves his job as state senator – will run again in 2023. His new district will separate him from Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27) of South Orange, who will resurface in the 28th with state Senator Ronald Rice and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker.

According to Matt Friedman of Politico, the map pits Codey against Gill.

From a source regarding that matchup: conventional wisdom is that Codey is popular, on the strength of his having honorably served the district for almost 50 years. He is a veteran campaigner and closer to Governor Phil Murphy than (Nia) Gill.

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) may challenge Codey for the senate seat. “If he doesn’t get the line

Gill
Senator Gill

he may just quit,” a source said, in reference to McKeon. “John’s had it, being in the assembly.”

Gill, a Montclair resident, is expected to run off the line in a district that includes Livingston, Millburn, Codey’s hometown of Roseland, West Orange, Montclair and Clifton.

Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-34) of East Orange (where Jones also serves as local Democratic Party chair) would be a favorite to move up in a new 34th District that builds itself around East Orange, Irvington, Bloomfield and Nutley with Montclair and Gill removed.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28), now in Rice’s district, will resurface in the 34th, presumably under the new reign of Timberlake. Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-27) of South Orange will move from LD27 to LD28.

As part of the deal, Middlesex – empowered over the past few years – protects its flank; and Jones gets a chance to exert more influence with the pick-up of a senator.

Republican incumbents largely stay the same or get better.

Losers: George Norcross III (Jones ejected former state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) from the commission in midstream), as Legislative Districts 3 and 4 appear to have gotten worse for Democrats leading to a 2023 Governor Phil Murphy midterm.

LD8 (currently occupied by Republican state Senator Jean Stanfield, who last year knocked off Senator Dawn Addiego) gets worse for Democrats by a point or two.

Any hopes for a Sweeney comeback tour in LD3 looked grim, at least based on the source’s reading of the South Jersey impact.

Sacco and his allies – among them Joey Muniz – hitched their wagon to Team Norcross instead of Jones and Middlesex and appear to have made a bad bet. Muniz – close to Sacco – could hang around as an assemblyman as part of a farewell Sacco deal. But others speculated that Muniz – not chummy with Middlesex, to put it mildly – as the possible successor to Sacco, made a Stack a natural choice for the establishment.

“The idea was, ‘let’s end this [Senator Muniz] right now’,” a Hudson source said.

Gill -(who unsuccessfully ran for the senate presidency against Nick Scutari, and who, incidentally, once beat LeRoy Jones) looked like the Essex loser on the map.

To be determined: Democrats in competitive districts.

Democrats appeared to have gotten slightly better in 11, 14, and 38 but LD16 (where state Senator Andrew Zwicker won last year) remains highly competitive.

Lagana
Lagana

Thirty-eight is interesting. The district’s occupant, state Senator Joe Lagana (D-38) appeared – like Stack in 33 – to have strong allies in the redistricting room. Scutari now sits on the senate presidency or a two-year term.

Look for Lagana or Stack – more likely Lagana, since he was in the mix to succeed Sweeney – to make a play for the senate presidency next, perhaps with the backing of the GOP caucus (Barlas and former Republican state Senator Kevin O’Toole) if things get rough.

Few sources say Scutari is strong as the sitting senate president, especially with ongoing investigations overturning his home county of Union at the moment, intensified by the news that confessed murderer Sean Caddle – who worked numerous City of Elizabeth campaigns connected to the web of some key Union political personalities – is cooperating with the feds.

In an atmosphere accelerated by a fight for the senate presidency, don’t be shocked to see a developing rivalry between Middlesex and Essex on the one side; and the GOP and the scattered pieces of the rest of the Democratic Party.

As for 2023, in the words of an the insider, “Democrats now need to prop up Governor [Phil] Murphy to prevent midterm loss.

Other notes:

Communities of color: three Voting Rights Alliance (VRA) districts protected. 17 majority/minority districts with two more that are very close (the advocates of a unity map had wanted an even 20).

LD20 becomes 49% Hispanic; LD32 Asian opportunity district; LD1 adds Bridgeton, which was a Fair Coalition priority; Morris County minority community connected.

The big news out of redistricting, finally, was the apparent end of the legislative career of Sacco, who

Barlas

ruled North Hudson County for over two decades and defined himself as a significant Democratic Party power player. His big moment as a state level player came in 2013, when he worked with Norcross and South Jersey to secure the speakership for his district-mate, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32). in exchange for Sacco’s Hudson County backing of then-Senate President Sweeney. Prieto and Sweeney ended up in a bad way, but Sacco maintained good relations with Sweeney and South Jersey. In the end, building a statewide strategy around that close relationship might have impaired Sacco as Democrats on the redistricting commission led by Jones (and reinforced by Commissioner Gary Taffet of Middlesex), prioritized Middlesex and Essex, and set South Jersey adrift.

Again, though, Republicans behind O’Toole (who chairs the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) are conceivably in a position to coalesce other former strong South Jersey allies as they seek new frontiers of post-Norcross power. They are also in a weakened position with Sweeney gone from the senate throne, but have strong (stronger?) ties to Middlesex (Middlesex Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe also occupies a Port Authority seat), and if relations sour between Essex and Middlesex, can try to peel Middlesex.

The commission has a 2 p.m. meeting scheduled for Friday, February 18th, at which time, sources expect the new legislative map to receive an official imprimatur for the next decade.

Things are looking up on the new map for the 34th district’s Timberlake, a close ally of Chairman Jones.

 

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