This is a speculative piece a week and a day ahead of the June 28th deadline, so it should not induce panic or hurt feelings.
But the real (or primarily baited) possibility of an all-Hispanic LG face-off emerged as Democrat Phil Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno neared their official choices to fill out their respective tickets for the November general election. Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos A Rendo looked like a late strong option for Guadagno, while Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-36) held steady into the closing days of consideration by Murphy, according to a source.
Sources say Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34) and Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) looked like the frontrunners a month ago, but public sector unions expressed doubts about the former, who worked with Governor Chris Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) to overhaul public pensions and benefits; while the latter bears maybe the mild encumbrance of former membership in the Republican Party. A source said Sumter has remained in contention, outpacing the very wobbly Oliver, but Caride came on strong late during the review process, or at least has not sagged significantly at any period of examination.
The political context helps Caride’s candidacy, first reported by InsiderNJ.
At the edge of getting jettisoned from his seat by a Democratic establishment led by South Jersey
Democratic leader George Norcross III, Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) would leave behind a Latino vacuum as the Democratic Party struggles to rationalize the appearance of the Irish-American males in the key positions of Trenton power: Murphy (governor), Sweeney (senate president), and Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (Prieto’s likely successor). If U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) fails to survive the political backlash of his fall corruption trial, his departure would further minimize the influence of Latinos in significant leadership positions.
New Jersey serves as home to 1,730,000 Latinos, or an estimated 19% of the population, 13.6% (831,000) of which is eligible to vote.*
Sources say Guadagno and her team are alert to the chilling effect in the Democratic Party in the event that Prieto gets replaced by a white male. Hoping to capitalize and generate support from a key voting bloc as they limp far behind Murphy in general election polling, Team Guadagno focused on landing a Latino for the LG job, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Carlos Medina and Rendo (both names first reported by InsiderNJ) leading the way.
For weeks, most Democratic sources assumed Team Murphy would select an African American woman in the name of balance and of blunting the perhaps inevitable toppling of Prieto. As noted, Oliver and Sumter (and others) present their own obstacles. The name of Tahesha Way, a former Passaic County Freeholder washed out of office in 2009, emerged as the object of some tire kicking. But another prospect, Middlesex County Sheriff Mildred Scott, appeared to be a non-option, as she shrank Coughlin’s chances of landing the speakership. Middlesex’s first priority was getting the assembly leadership position and would not want to jeopardize that by settling for one of their own to occupy the second banana spot on a Murphy ticket. Oliver’s unions problem renewed some chatter of Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-7) as a South Jersey counterweight to the Northern-based and still-surviving if weakened-in-the-conversation Sumter. It seemed unlikely. Singleton looked poised for a career in the state senate. Then there was this: U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) good standing as one of the country’s best known African American leaders coupled with Prieto’s and Menendez’s loosened hand holds on power opened the way for Democrats to entertain the argument that African Americans already have a statewide star. It was time to consider cultivating another Hispanic, or so one runs one speculative argument.
State Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) of Essex seemed like an obvious choice, but she was newly a mother and content chairing the Senate Education Committee.
Caride’s name persisted.
Liked, even well-liked, the attorney and prosecutor by training won her seat out of Ridgefield following 2011 redistricting as Democrats fulfilled the late Alan Rosenthal’s insistence on more minorities in state leadership positions. She subsequently sat on the Joint Legislative Committee investigating Bridgegate, and in the context of Prieto’s coming demotion, her Hudson roots could deflect some of the hurt feelings around Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairman Prieto’s political demise, if that goes down the people think it will.
Caride was low or no drama.
She was loyal.
It was hard to envision her making any unforced errors.
She perhaps presented the single wrinkle of complicating Hudson’s shot at AG. State Senator Nick Sacco (D-32) is said to favor Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez for the job of New Jersey’s top cop. But Caride was technically Bergen.
Significantly, she gave the already power-striding Murphy a chance to completely smother the struggling, Chris Christie-hobbled Guadagno’s one chance to spike some excitement. If Guadagno selected Rendo or Medina in the framework of Prieto’s fall and Menendez’s coming courtroom trouble, Murphy could find himself up against the narrative of Guadagno and Latinos’ Last Stand. Just as it made sense for Guadagno – herself somewhat hampered by her support for 287(g) when she served as Monmouth County Sheriff not to mention an NJGOP in tatters – Murphy had to give Caride a hard look.
But if Guadagno went suddenly in another direction, and opted out of either Medina or Rendo as an alternative to the GOP ticket, and for the sake of argument, let’s say, tapped a white male, the Democrats could go to an African American instead of Caride – and on that score Sumter remained a live prospect. It did not appear done, as the gamesmanship element endured with both Guadagno and Murphy allowing a little daylight in both instances for the sake of strategy, but the best guess here – allowing the discussed contingencies – was still Rendo v. Medina for the GOP and Sumter v. Caride. for the Dems.
*All numbers furnished courtesy of the Pew Research Center.