NEWARK – InsiderNJ scoured the crowd of insiders at Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s kickoff on Thursday and came away with a single distinct impression of the war behind the scenes for the next lieutenant governor of New Jersey. The edge right now belongs to Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) to run this year on the Democratic ticket with gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy.
Murphy, of course, ultimately makes the call.
There are circulating names, among them Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34) and Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-36). Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones favors home county lawmaker Oliver.
But Jones, one source notes, lacks control over the Essex delegation. Essex is not Hudson, for example, where mayors interchange assembly people like automobile parts. In Essex, the legislators have spent years building themselves into miniaturized rock stars with bankable brand names who do whatever they damn well please, including run for U.S. Senate if they feel like it (Oliver). Jones’ push for the assemblywoman to serve on the LG ticket is more about his move to get an automaton in the assembly seat whom he can use for leverage in statewide street fights, the source insisted.
An indispensable backer of Murphy’s once Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s gubernatorial candidacy collapsed last year, Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie’s advocacy for Sumter amounts to his request for a returned favor.
Sumter’s literally his goddaughter.
Essex sources jeer that Sumter’s a former Republican, but Passaic backers of Sumter’s note that Oliver was part of the team that rammed public pensions and benefits and – whether willingly or not – participated in Essex County’s great watering down at the hands of Republican Governor Chris Christie and South Jersey Democratic Party power broker George Norcross III.
Barring a bombshell created by the Horizon raid that would enable Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32) to stick around as speaker, no source suspects Murphy will select anyone other than an African American for LG.
Sources in both camps fret that Oliver – a policy chops driven veteran and opinionated independent-minded leader – could overshadow Murphy, or go off the reservation entirely and make a political point of dividing government. They also worry that Sumter, by contrast, might be too green. But the politics defined by Currie and Currie’s closeness to Murphy make Sumter the favorite right now.