How an Ongoing Sweeney-Murphy Feud Could Spill into a State Party Leadership Fight

Murphy and Currie

If Phil Murphy gets elected governor and voters restore Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) to the upper chamber throne, both men will be motivated to put their fingerprints on the next chair of the Democratic State Committee.

Sweeney is said to be irritated with Murphy for not calling off the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) dogs, an irritability that extends to Democratic State Party Chairman John Currie, who, incidentally, was that northern chairman most identified with cementing Murphy as the gubernatorial choice.

Denied a crack at the Passaic County clerkship by Sweeney, Currie is said to want another tour of duty as state party chairman, and sources say Murphy – in a show of gratitude – is inclined to have his back.

But Sweeney nurses the wound of having thought Currie was his friend and ally, and – based on how hard he kicked the state party chairman on the clerkship – shows no sign of backing down where the state party chair is concerned.

Sources say a possible alternative to Currie could be veteran Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer.

Schaffer backs the reelection of Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16), whose district includes part of Somerset. In a divided caucus, Zwicker backs Assemblyman Craig Coughlin for speaker over sitting Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32). Zwicker’s support for Coughlin presumably extends to support for Sweeney, given the contours of the divide. Schaffer has strong ties, too, to Senator Bob Smith (D-17), a stout Sweeney ally in the senate, and a key part of the Middlesex-South Jersey leadership deal.

Currie has consistently said publicly that he wants to see more diversity in state legislative leadership, which insiders interpret as continuing support for Prieto.

Schaffer and her allies in Somerset are trying this year not only to protect Zwicker, but to pick off at least one countywide seat.

There is no indication that Schaffer opposes Prieto or is party to a plot to unseat Currie if it comes to that, but one source said she would be a good challenger if Sweeney-GN3 versus Currie-Murphy transpired, in part because she is one of the only women county chairs in the state.

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One response to “How an Ongoing Sweeney-Murphy Feud Could Spill into a State Party Leadership Fight”

  1. Coughlin is the key. If he is Speaker the ” Chair” means very little.

    Murphy is going to have to learn how to negotiate ,something Corzine never learned. Peace is always made with favors!

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