Murphy Shows Up at Prieto Fundraiser with Allies of the Sitting Speaker, Including Four Whose Names Appeared on Coughlin Letter

At Nanina’s in the Park tonight, Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) gathered together candidates for office in districts where he sees opportunities in addition to incumbents in caucus who stand with him.

For a deeper dive into Prieto’s designs, go here.

Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones was not present at the event.

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo likewise sat out the occasion.

Jones and DiVincenzo both back Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) to succeed Prieto as speaker.

Significantly, however, members of the Essex delegation whose names appeared on a letter on behalf of Coughlin’s speaker candidacy, attended the fundraiser.

Four out of the eight assembly people from Essex turned up in good cheer for the sitting speaker.

Assemblyman John McKeon

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo


Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker

all attended the event amid whispers from people close to Prieto that the four of them never consented to the Coughlin letter and privately assured Prieto that they’re with him. Their presence at the fundraiser renewed discussions in the party about just how committed they were at the time the letter from the Essex delegation first appeared in InsiderNJ. Sources at the time said those four members never wanted to back Coughlin when Jones approached them with the request, and saw their names appeared attached to the endorsement against their will. None of them ever signed anything, a source told InsiderNJ. None of the four called InsiderNJ, however, to walk back the endorsement of Coughlin.

Last night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy also attended with much enthusiasm, as he tries to hover above the internecine fray in his party.

Others from North Jersey – including Democratic incumbents from Hudson, Bergen and Passaic – in addition to new faces from districts 25, 39 40 – all put in appearances at the Prieto fundraiser.

“At the event, Murphy spoke about Speaker Prieto’s commitment to progressive values and the excitement being generated by the aggressive campaigns being waged by Democratic Assembly candidates throughout the state under the direction of DACC,” said Prieto Spokesman Phil Swibinski.

The speaker, of course, has his critics in the party.

“No chairs, very little labor,” a source said in condemning the event.

One person stood out to a source who attended the event: retiring Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19).

“All those votes are his votes,” the source said, referring to the 100K-plus votes Wisniewski hauled in off the line during the Democratic Primary for Governor earlier this year. His presence in Essex last night among Prieto supporters sparked cocktail banter about the possibility of the Middlesex assemblyman taking another statewide crack next year, this time for senate.

Murphy, right, with Prieto.



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