ATLANTIC CITY – Following Chris Christie’s resounding reelection in 2013, he tried to get Kevin O’Toole elected senate minority leader.
“Elections have consequences,” Christie declared.
In that case, the consequences supposedly would look like sitting Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. being removed on a stretcher from the chamber, vanquished by O’Toole.
Seeing the GOP advantage of Christie at the top of the ticket that year, Kean had had the temerity to actually try to help Republican candidates win in key battleground contests, among them LD3.
That’s the district of Senate President Steve Sweeney, where the NJEA would get roughed up four years later.
Sweeney, Christie and O’Toole were all close.
Kean was the odd man out.
But the caucus itself didn’t appreciate Christie’s campaign strategy of refusing to compete in key districts where opportunity existed in favor of affixing himself to Brian Stack and Joe DiVincenzo in Democratic Party strongholds in the interest of massive numbers – and key Latino support, a helpful bullet point in a national election.
They didn’t appreciate Christie trying to bully Kean, after Kean had made a sincere effort to expand the GOP caucus.
Kean beat O’Toole.
“Well, at least we tried.”
O’Toole was a friend.
Christie unraveled at that point, never to again catch a break in New Jersey politics, as Bridgegate soon buried him.
But with Kean retiring now, and Christie gone, Sweeney doesn’t think his support for longtime pal state Senator Steve Oroho (R-24) will produce the same results as the aftermath of 2013.
For one, Oroho isn’t running against Kean.
The veteran senator from Sussex County wants to succeed Kean, and is competing with two other long-serving Republican colleagues: Senator Bob Singer (R-30), and Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26).
Oroho, too, sees his ability to work with Sweeney as an asset.
Plus, it’s not as though his close relations with Sweeney have put him on a collision course with the caucus.
“Senator Singer, Senator Pennacchio and I work very well together,” the senator told InsiderNJ.
“It’s a very close race,” he added of the fight to become senate minority leader.
“Senate minority leader,” a grinning NJ Building Trades President Bill Mullen noted from the Hard Rock dais at this morning’s annual conference.
Mullen made it clear the organization doesn’t want to ditch the sitting senate president.
They more than like him.
But Oroho would do fine as the GOP leader, Mullen made a point of telling members, moments before calling the Republican senator onstage to make public remarks.
InsiderNJ caught up with Oroho when he alighted on the carpet later.
Is bipartisanship a selling point to the rest of his caucus?
“I think so, at the end of the day we’ve got to get things done,” the senator said.
Asked if he anticipates a mash-up of himself and state Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) in a Democratic redistricting map, Oroho added with a laugh, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”