Names in the LD34 Game: and Passaic V. Essex, the Rematch?


Following the news first reported last night by InsiderNJ, speculation about Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver’s (D-34) long-held assembly seat upped the volume in Essex County.

Most sources said they believe powerful Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones would back someone from his – and Oliver’s – hometown of East Orange.

On that score, the names jump right off the page: Essex County Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake, and East Orange Councilman Chris James (a former Oliver chief of staff). Councilwoman Quilla E. Talmadge is also a prospect, an Essex source told InsiderNJ.

There are some intriguing names in Montclair in the event of a full-blown shakeup, including Mayor Robert Jackson, Fourth Ward Councilor Renee E. Baskerville, and Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller, a labor leader with the New Jersey Education Association.

The conventional wisdom in Essex is that Jones now has an opening and the political will to get his own person to replace Oliver, but one source noted the presence in LD34 of Clifton, and floated the name of Councilwoman Laura Murphy.

Littler Passaic lost the fist fight with bully Essex for LG, as Passaic County Democratic Committee Chair John Currie’s goddaughter Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) yielded to Jones ally – and Essex political celebrity – Oliver. But now might Currie – armed with the argument that Clifton is the biggest town in the district – make the push for his close ally, Murphy, to backdoor and undercut Jones?

It is unlikely, sources say. Part of Jones’ motivation to get Oliver the LG slot was to slake his thirst for augmented power on an assembly seat, and it would boggle the mind if the Essex Chairman stood down now and allowed the already vanquished Passaic to rise and perform a victory lap with the likes of Murphy.

But it was volatile.

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