Talks are going on all over the state right now regarding the speakership, significantly in Union City, where North Jersey power broker Brian P. Stack is considering joining forces with South Jersey and Middlesex.
Stack’s on a bit of a tight rope.
He doesn’t want to go too far in offending frenemy state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32), but neither does he want to be on the losing team if Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) is indeed mortally wounded. So he has Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) in hand as the card he can play for Assembly budget chair in exchange for releasing the Jersey City lawmaker to Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19).
Mukherji is one of several fence sitters with powerful personages behind them in the speaker’s duel.
Others include Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29) and Assemblywoman Liz Muoio (D-15), respectively backed by Essex County democratic Chairman Leroy Jones and Mercer County Executive Brian J. Hughes.
Stack has additional motivation to cut the deal with Coughlin and company: A) He already signed off on the other half of the deal: keeping Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) installed on the throne; and B) He and Democratic State Party Chairman John Currie had words after the chair criticized Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-33) for standing up in caucus and announcing that she does whatever Stack tells her. “He’s not really a Democrat,” Currie said of Stack, who didn’t like that, any less than when Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) leveled the same charge a few years back. For the record, Stack and Weinberg have obviously gotten over that family fight. They appeared lovey-dovey at the senator’s laser lights extravaganza for Phil Murphy last night.
If he takes the bait and goes with South Jersey/Middlesex for Coughlin, that leaves Pintor Marin and Muoio with their noses pressed up against the window and Prieto in a position to capitalize. Earlier today he dumped Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37) out of his chairmanship as pay back for Johnson backing Coughlin.
Others whose names appeared the list that apparently rankled Prieto included Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (Homeland Security) (D-20) and Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14) (Law and Public Safety). The question becomes whether the speaker – in a real time reaction to the Stack talks – decides to offload them and buttress support for Pintor Marin and Muoio by promoting them to respectively chair those committees.
Quijano backed Coughlin over Prieto in part because she’s close to Union County Sheriff Joe Cryan (D-20), the top of the ticket in the 20th District this year as he runs for the state senate seat being vacated by retiring state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20).
Cryan’s tight with Coughlin.
Cryan already backed Sweeney for Senate Prez.
Now Quijano goes to Coughlin as a show of loyalty to Cryan; while Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) stands pat, in part as a insult to Cryan. Holley’s decision not to move with Cryan, Quijano and Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22) doubly infuriated Green, a Holley mentor and chair of the Union County democratic Party, who expected the younger lawmaker to move with the team. A source told InsiderNJ that more than poking Cryanor Green in the eye, Holley doesn’t want to offend state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28), his Black Legislative Caucus overlord, who condemns all moves empowering South Jersey.
If one applies the logic of the speaker punishing those Coughlin supporters a la the way he made Johnson walk the plank earlier today, how far does Prieto go?
Does he plug Quijano’s seat with Holley in an effort to yank Holley into his column for keeps?