“Put your notebook away,” the source snapped, as the barkeep slopped a beer down in front of him. The subject of the conversation was redistricting and InsiderNJ presented a scenario for the insider’s scrutiny.
Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. never got along.
Sweeney was an ironworker who looked like he knew his way around a pool table. Kean went to Dartmouth.
The irony here though was that Sweeney would give an edge to Kean in congressional redistricting in exchange for his own benefit in legislative redistricting.
In other words, Dems would get rid of incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7) to give Kean a congressional seat, in exchange for scrunching two white Democrats in Middlesex together by ramming New Brunswick into Perth Amboy in order to create a so-called majority minority district; or by getting rid of a Republican who refused to “play ball,” as they say, which would be state Senator Mike Doherty (R-23). Doherty, the conventional wisdom runs, could be gotten rid of by lumping his western New Jersey district together with that of state Senator Steve Oroho (R-24), with a clear advantage crafted for the latter, a longtime cross-the-aisle Sweeney ally.
The source was shaking his head throughout the layout.
Too much rode nationally on New Jersey to sacrifice Malinowski, the source insisted.
New Jersey Democrats will not be allowed to get rid of the CD-7 incumbent without an even trade to keep the same number of Garden State congress people intact, the source said.
If they allow the GOP to gain a seat in this environment (with control of the U.S. House of Representatives at stake in midterm elections), U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-7) could kiss goodbye his energy chairmanship and his commanding position on the committee, courtesy of U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). All that goodwill forged by U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross with the California-based speaker? Gone.
No, the source said.
Malinowski would be a casualty.
This much is true.
But New Jersey would simultaneously gain a seat down south, namely by expunging U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2), the source speculated.
Kean would get a seat in Malinowski’s expense, yes.
Jettison Millburn from CD-7?
But Dems would have to maintain the same number of congressional seats coming out of redistricting as going in, unless they wanted to embarrass themselves and risk Pelosi’s wrath.
Wasn’t it convenient that Sweeney looked vulnerable in November as a consequence of two legislative races? “If [former Assemblyman Vince] Polistina wins and [state Senator Dawn Addiego] loses, Sweeney’s done as senate president,” the source affirmed.
InsiderNJ pushed back.
South Jersey had too many tentacles into Middlesex.
Middlesex wasn’t unified.
Not in a fight.
The source leaned in.
Sweeney would look weak if Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-2) lost to Polistina and Assemblywoman Jan Stanfield (R-8) beat Addiego.
Blood would be in the water.
Middlesex would move.
Thus, Sweeney would have the green light to craft a congressional district for himself as an escape hatch from the state senate out of the remans of Van Drew’s career.
Malinowski out, Sweeney in, and New Jersey Democrats well-footed to make the case to Pelosi that they maintained their 10-2 edge.
It was an interesting idea, confirming – at least in part – InsiderNJ’s grid and the essential connectivity (solidified by Kean’s presence) of the legislative and congressional maps – but enhanced by the intensity of the other game preoccupying Sweeney at the moment, namely holding off Middlesex for leadership, while satisfying the national party beast.
InsiderNJ quibbled with the supposed power Middlesex exerted over its delegation, given the reach of South Jersey.
Nonetheless, it was volatile.