Menendez to Murphy in Passaic County: ‘I Don’t Pick Fights, but I Finish Them’

Political Parties: Currie, emblem of one half of NJ's main political parties.
Menendez and Currie.

PATERSON – The jammed breakfast tables teemed with bacon, eggs, fruit, orange juice and coffee, the


conversations already underway when Passaic County Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie walked into the Brownstone banquet hall and gave a Joe Namath greeting, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on his heels and three days to go before Election Day.

Republican challenger Bob Hugin did his best to kitchen sink the statewide contest and change the narrative from President Donald J. Trump to the senior senator’s moral struggles, but finally the President encumbers his party with too much ugly negative energy pressing down on New Jersey, they argued here.

“He’s certainly helping matters,” said Paterson Council President Maritza Davila, referring to Trump’s tweet earlier this week, which Latinos – Menendez among them – deemed offensive.

Perfect timing for Menendez to take out Hugin, Davila reasoned.

A more pressing immediate concern was whether the second story floorboards of the Brownstown would hold. “I’ve never seen this many people here,” Clifton Councilwoman Lauren Murphy said.

“I gotta get outta here,” she cracked.

But she stuck it out.

When U.S. Senator Cory Booker entered, he selfie-strutted to the front of the room, later lapping Menendez’s observation to the crowd that they were looking at a future president.  Governor Phil Murphy was also in the room. Having Murphy-danced to the stage, he went into GOTV messaging hyperdrive.

It wasn’t overly intellectually strenuous.

“Donald Trump is on the ballot on Tuesday, let there be no doubt about it,” said the governor. “You either vote for Donald Trump, or you vote for Bob Menendez. You either vote for Bill Pascrell or you vote for Donald Trump. You either vote for Mikie Sherrill or you vote for Donald Trump. You either vote for Josh Gottheimer or Donald Trump.”

Murphy and Menendez

InsiderNJ buttonholed an insider.

How’s the race going?

“I say we smoke ’em,” he said.

Then he proceeded to go off on a jag against the Republican clerk candidate Ron Fava.

“Fava, Fava, Fava,” voice exorcised, face reddening.

“What about the statewide race?” InsiderNJ asked.

“Oh, that, that’s closer” the source said.

But added, “We still win.”

The analysis didn’t offer much in the way of nuance: 900,000 more registered NJ Democrats plus Donald Trump equals a wounded Menendez crawling to victory.

Booker and Freeholder John Bartlett.

Murphy bulked up the party’s statewide ballot standard bearer. Menendez, he told the crowd, picks fights and finishes fights.

Menendez lingered on that quote when he grabbed the mic.

“I don’t pick fights,” he said, “but I finish them once they start.”

That got a big round of Braveheart-like battle lust applause, topped only by Menendez’s invocation of Booker as a possible prez.

The breakfast featured all the players, or most of them; Pascrell, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, Democratic Committee Vice-Chair Lizette Delgado-Polanco, Senator Nellie Pou (D-35), Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, the freeholders, the council people, Sherriff Richard Berdnik, veteran operatives like Keith Furlong and Miguel Diaz.


A legendary local football coach turned politician, Wimberly said Hugin took it too far.

“The negative campaign that Huggins has done has taken things to a new low,” said the assemblyman. “He’s really made this stuff too personal. When you get to the point where it’s not factual and personal, count me out. This Huggins – he has a credible resume with the people predisposed to that kind of record, but he went overboard and over the line, just like Fava went over the line. And it gets back to Trump, of course, who’s created an atmosphere of open season for this sort of thing, that I’m just sorry my kids have to witness.”

Booker, Menendez and Murphy didn’t stick around. They all had to go to Essex County Democratic Committee Leroy Jones’ breakfast in West Orange, to presumably chest thump atop a similar mood. Menendez even got in a dig on Integrity NJ – a super PAC with ties to former Governor Chris Christie, which dropped in late last month with another late flurry.

“We know how good he was for eight years, right,” Menendez said of the governor that limped out of office with a 16% job approval rating. “I don’t think we need advice from Chris Christie’s super PAC.”

It wasn’t the only political activity in the area.

Due west on Union Blvd., in a bar on the side of the road, amid Fava and Hugin signs and the Irish flag, the troops of Passaic County Republican Committee Chairman Peter Murphy prepared for war.

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