Mandelblatt’s Westfield Waterloo? The Scutari Hail Mary Option in CD7

Pancaked in Hunterdon on Sunday, CD7 candidate Lisa Mandelblatt may have a fail safe option in her home county of Union, the setting of an increasingly caustic chairman’s race.

Senator Nick Scutari (D-22) continues to run an aggressive, cross all the t’s and dot all i’s race to succeed Union County Democratic Committee Chairman Jerry Green, and he has a big advantage with Elizabeth in his corner and, by all appearances, the bulk of a jittery Plainfield.

But if his chairmanship comes down to hand to hand house-hunting countywide, he may have the potential to pick up Westfield on the strength of the local Democratic Party apparatus’ connection to Mandelblatt. Westfield shocked the state – and the brain trust around former Governor Chris Christie – in November when voters installed Democrat Shelley Brindle in the mayoralty. Mandelblatt was a stout Brindle backer.  Now, presumably, the local Dems are there for Mandelblatt.

If Scutari backs Mandelblatt for Congress, can he be assured of pocketing Westfield toward the chairmanship?

It’s something both sides have to consider, and yet the Hunterdon outcome for the candidate can hardly fill Scutari with delight as he mulls over his choice.

Already in a showdown with Acting Chair Colleen Mahr and attempting to smother the impression that he’s a white male looking to deny the ascent of a female (a favored narrative by the Mahr backers’), Scutari must tread carefully in the vicinity of Mandelblatt rival Tom Malinowski, a former assistant secretary of state who on Sunday crushed the rest of the field in the first open convention of the season in Hunterdon.

Hounded by his own gender narrative, Scutari can’t double down now by big-footing Mandelblatt (and Linda Weber of Berkeley Heights) with another white male. “We’re so angry, we’ve taken to the streets,” Mandelblatt reminded delegates at Sunday’s convention in Hunterdon, speaking to the women’s movement formed as a counterpoint to President Donald J. Trump.

What about Weber then as a natural fit – and compromise – for Scutari?

Well, the early impression is that the Mahr supporters are closer to Weber than Malinowski or Mandelblatt. So if he goes with Weber – who already possesses two organizational lines (Essex and Somerset), Scutari might be getting to the dance late.

Malinowski has the momentum now, and may well have it on the heels of a second planned open convention in Warren County. But Scutari as chairman requires another white male on the political funeral pyre, lest he look like he doesn’t mind throwing Mahr – and Weber – over for a double barrel dose of white male-dom.

Malinowski is the most obvious sacrifice.

Scutari for chair, Weber for Congress.

Mandelblatt may offer a Hail Mary enticement as a matter of pure, all-politics-is-local transaction. It just depends on how much pull Mandleblatt actually has with the local Democrats in her hometown, and whether Scutari would risk putting his name on her candidacy for a candidate who may not have adequate support elsewhere.

But if it truly boils down to Malinowski versus Weber for what will now be the critical support of the party in Union, despite Malinowski’s best efforts to resist – just as Scutari is doing in the chairman’s fight, the gender resistance – the Mahr versus Scutari back story gives the organizational edge to Weber.



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