As the state’s political classes stampede toward filing day, Democrats up north have their eyes fixed on three key legislative battleground contests, according to sources in the party. Others may offer head fake opportunities, but really boils down to 11, 16 and 38, they say in the post GN3 iteration of the party.
George Norcross III, the South Jersey power broker, looks lost in the swamps of his region of the state, other leaders and influencers told InsiderNJ this week. As much as they respect John Burzichelli, for example, the specter of Norcross troubles them, and makes them inclined to resist chucking a life raft into the pines.
A former assemblyman, Burzichelli stepped up to run in LD-3 after former State Senator Steve Sweeney told Norcross he wouldn’t challenge the man who beat him two years ago, sitting state Senator Ed Durr (R-3).
Burzichelli built a reputation of competence and intellectual vigor beyond the confines of Norcross and Sweeney Still, the bad blood between the South and North-Central Jersey make it difficult to envision party leaders in Essex, Bergen, Hudson and Middlesex getting excited about the South.
“They’re going to let George hang down there; that’s why he’s angry,” a source offered.
In the past, on the strength of Sweeney’s and Norcross’ political priorities, LD2, LD1, LD3, and LD8 (later) became significant Democratic battlegrounds.
But LD-11 (take a look at whom the Republicans chose to run here) and LD-16 (where former U.S. Rep. Mike Pappas will again run for the Republicans) have supplanted those southward districts in the new regime, and significantly amplified the protective cover for incumbents Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) and Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-16). LD-38 – especially with the reddening of Paramus – also remains a priority for the Bergen-Hudson-Middlesex-Passaic-Essex leadership pact, such as it is, on display during the Mercer war, when no one stepped up to try to create havoc on behalf of Norcross’ chosen candidate, speared County Executive Brian Hughes.
Certainly Senate President Nick Scutari (D-22) – bolstered on his leadership perch by the aforementioned counties – will see little reason this year to roll around in South Jersey in order to boost the fortunes of his tormentor Norcross, preferring instead to go all in for friends occupying LD-11, LD-16 and LD-38.
Even as Democrats prepare for those general election contests, Democratic State Party Chairman LeRoy Jones (who also leads the party in Essex County) will have to figure out how to best position his candidates in LD-27 for a coming primary, complicated now by troubles occupying the attention of veteran Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-27).
According to Politico, Democrats – with time ticking down ahead of the deadline next week – want to get rid of the elder Giblin in order to strengthen the establishment ticket headed by state Senator Dick Codey, in preparation for an animated off-the-line run by state Senator Nia Gill (D-27) and her team.