In a backroom bombshell, Ocean County Democratic Chairman Wyatt Earp today issued the following statement on the future of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee:
“In the interest of building state party unity I am pleased today to endorse Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, as the next chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. Chairman Jones has demonstrated that he has the experience and the temperament to unite our party and to lead it to even greater electoral success in coming years.”
The endorsement appeared to put Jones in range of 50-plus votes and over the top in his quest to budge sitting Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie from the chairmanship, but a formal committee vote would not occur until next month.
A fluid contest persisted, with Governor Phil Murphy – a Currie devotee – and his allies doubling back to their pen of “ayes” for the sitting chair and still working to keep the Currie corral from breaking open for Jones. Sources say Murphy and company aggressively tried to pull Earp to their side but always faced the two-fold reality of the veteran party chair’s membership in the Building Trades (close to Senate President Steve Sweeey); and his longstanding relationship with the Monmouth County Democratic Committee, which backs Jones. Monmouth had close ties to Sweeney, mostly as a consequence of state Senator Vin Gopal’s (D-11) reliance on relationships within a caucus run by the senate president.
“I respect Chairman Currie and his tenure as the longest serving Chairman in the history of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee,” said Earp. “With that said, I think it would be healthy and important to pass the torch to a new leader. I believe Chairman Jones can help unite all factions of our party.
“After consulting and discussing this election with my Democratic State Committee members, who also share a desire for party unity, I enthusiastically support Chairman Jones and his efforts to serve as the next chair of our Democratic Party,” the chairman added.
Earp’s endorsement for Jones came less than a week after Mercer County Democratic Committee Chair Janice Mironov gave Currie some momentum on the heels of Bergen County Democratic Committee Paul Juliano’s pre-Election Day statement of support for the sitting party chairman.
A source in the aftermath of the chair’s declaration could not understimate its significance, calling it a strange move, which likely would short circuit negotiations and trigger a full-blown war.
Murphy had been counting on Earp.