Movement: The Fulop and Sweeney Rivalry Reintensifies

Fulop, left, and Sweeney.

In an establishment atmosphere keen on dynasties (the old get more powerful as they mentor their own psychologically beholden progeny, as opposed to irrelevant with age and disrepair; and always eager for Goldman Sachs bloodlines in order to enable a statewide candidate to pay his own way rather than lean too heavily on fracture-prone regional machine manpower), Steve Fulop and Steve Sweeney have officially resuscitated their rivalry as the “B” side of the Democratic Party’s 2025 conversation.

The “A” side?

Given the back-to-back party stewardships of Goldman Sachs alumni Jon Corzine and Phil Murphy (and the shabby treatment by the party of a woman who ran for office against perennial Republican bully Chris Christie), that person should be considered whomever – however unknown and the more neophyte the better, to bulk the stature of those “pros” who can show him the ropes – next emerges from the ranks of Wall Street.

That said, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka continues to act like a gubernatorial candidate, presumably in defiance of whatever the party chairs of all 21 counties choose to ratify as a way of avoiding “a war” (ie: light sweat campaign trail work), while Fulop and Sweeney play a reanimated game of manhunt among the bayous of New Jersey’s non-publicized political events schedule.

You’ll recall that both Sweeney – the former state senate president ejected out of office last year by a nonunion truck driver – and Fulop, now in his third term as mayor of Jersey City – played for the Democratic nomination in the lead-up to 2017 only to both lose to Murphy, first Fulop and then Sweeney falling in behind the “Middle Class on a Good Day” guy from Goldman once Murphy locked up the northern chairs.

Unlike Baraka, who intends to expose the lines with an anti-establishment statewide candidacy if he choose to run in 2025, Fulop and Sweeney appear at least sufficiently conventionally wired to go after county organization support. Presumably, that’s why Sweeney showed up at a party thrown by Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair Peg Schaffer last week; and why Fulop can routinely be glimpsed in the county where he grew up: Middlesex.

In late 2016, Fulop spent a lot of time trying to shore up support in behemothic Bergen, playing footsy with local power players at even the most unglamorous of political picnics. This year he seems more strategically motivated in the direction of Middlesex, which Chairman Kevin McCabe has built into the state’s most disciplined powerhouse. If he starts with Hudson County, and then can pull Middlesex, maybe he can coax the other (somewhat) fractured counties to his side.

Ah, but does he have Hudson?

Jersey City’s population comprises 40% of the county. Add Bayonne (where Fuop has spent considerable time solidifying an alliance with Mayor Jimmy Davis) and he has 50% of Hudson – not to mention the commitment already of Hudson County Democratic Chairman Anthony Vainieri.

The challenge for Fulop is that Vainieri continues to have issues with Joey Muniz, a key political ally of state Senator (and North Bergen Mayor) Nick Sacco. Spoiled as the one-time backroom janitor and fixer for then-speaker Vincent Prieto, Muniz continues to act like he’s speaking for the county when he speaks outside of Hudson, his political enemies complain.

Hudson wants to be, in the inimitable parlance of Augie Torres, “unified.”

It can’t be a long as Muniz continues to operate out there without the blessing of the sitting chairman.

Vainieri and his allies have spoken to Sacco in an attempt to get the aging warlord to understand the implications of Muniz running around the state without a leash.

Someone else has spoken to Sacco, too.

Sources spotted South Jersey Democratic Party Power Broker George Norcross III dining with Sacco in Hudson a couple of weeks ago.

“He rode his helicopter up here,” a Hudson source groaned.

Remember, Norcross was always close to Sweeney.

Whether or not he’s still operating on the ironworker turned statesman’s behalf is another question, but in any event, Sacco lent him an ear.

Fulop was a little nervous, say sources.

The Jersey City Mayor made a point of defying Norcross back in 2016, and those (like Sweeney) unshackled from the Camden operator’s influence.  The wounds never healed over.

If Fulop was trying to cohere Hudson, in order to have a starting point to chip away at Hudson, how confident could he be in the performances of his own county soldiers if a key general, Sacco, was palling around with Sacco?

And again, could Sweeney – at least confident enough to motor from Gloucester up to Somerset on a Sunday evening for Schaffer’s party – trust that his old pal, Norcross, was still entertaining a statewide option for him, even though Sweeney no longer holds a pubic office.

Such were the 2025 intrigues ongoing even as the state staggered toward November 8th of this year and elections that mostly looked like foregone conclusions as a consequence of redistricting. Certainly, insiders watched the 11th and 5th districts with interest, for U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill continued to intrigue those in the Democratic Party who still believed in a non-Goldman old white male option, while U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (a moderate especially vulnerable to Baraka in a primary?) had enough skill as a fundraiser to be able to make the case that the party should just go with him rather than rely on an unknown quantity with money.

Fulop had money, too, though, a lot of it (and a studiously progressive issues record as Jersey City mayor); and Sweeney (with Building Trades labor at his side for life), to the extent that he maintained ties to a still-influential Norcross (at least in the mind of Sacco, apparently), had his own formidable lifeline, as this backroom statewide drama promised intensification on the other side of Nov. 8th.

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3 responses to “Movement: The Fulop and Sweeney Rivalry Reintensifies”

  1. Sweeney lost to a truck driver. He’s done! Biggest Joke in New Jersey. Nobody wants him re elected, heard or seen ever again. Bye Sweeney! Forgotten

  2. Well said! 💯% agree! See yea Sweeney. Fulop is the Mayor of America and has done so many great things in Jersey City. He would make an excellent Governor and that’s what has South Jersey running scared. And by the way Steven Fulop (former Marine) doesn’t get nervous.

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