Sarlo and Sweeney Huddle Up at Stony Hill as South Bergen Senator Appears to Deal-Make Around Stellato and Currie


The broad shoulders dwarfed the North Jersey décor and likely turned heads as people craned to figure out who the familiar-looking figure was sitting in the Stony Hill Inn with South Bergen diehard state Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36).

It was Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), up from Gloucester to survey the environs as that establishment sector of the party that made Assemblyman Craig Coughlin speaker and seeks the re-upping of Sweeney on the senate throne tries to close in Bergen and Passaic.

Sweeney and Sarlo are tight, and appears that as long as Sweeney stays planted where he is, Sarlo will remain installed as Budget Chairman.

But Sarlo and Sweeney don’t occupy the same space as Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato, both of whom backed Phil Murphy for Governor last fall in part to blockade Sweeney from getting the job.

Now the pair of them are having a hard time unsticking themselves from their perpetual irritation with Sweeney and his Northern ally Sarlo, as the latter attempts to puff up his portion of Bergen representation and step over Stellato.

A source told InsiderNJ that Sarlo friend and benefactor Joe Sanzari is hovering at the edge of switching parties to run in a Democratic Primary next year against Stellato pal incumbent Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, but most people see this simply as an anti-Stellato exercise fueled by Sarloites as simply a way to make Tedesco and the party chairman break into a cold sweat.

It’s fractured.

It’s factionalized.

Sarlo’s other rival, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36), appears saddled up with Stellato and Currie, as Sarlo moves ahead on his own to deal-make with South Jersey.

“Paul’s problem is he put everything on South Jersey,” a Bergen source groaned.

But Essex County’s support for Coughlin as speaker and the political demise of Speaker Vincent Prieto – whom Currie and Stellato appear to be supporting even the water over Prieto’s head – puts Sarlo in an advantageous spot.

A source close to the doily table setting at Stony Hill told InsiderNJ that in the new regime Sarlo can get a crack again at Budget Chair, or try to position himself (and he can see Essex County from his house) to replace Sweeney as Senate President in the event of a shakeup.


Senator M. Teresa Ruiz


Senator Nick Scutari

The three of them appear best positioned within the establishment constellation of a party otherwise known as George Norcross’ III political resource center to step in for Sweeney if Sweeney does not complete his next term, as originally expected, sources say. Of the three, Ruiz looks least likely to press her case for the job, making it a Sarlo v. Scutari tilt.

The two Italian-American lawmakers surfaced last night at a fundraiser for Vin Gopal and engaged in some friendly chest-thumping exercises.

Sarlo sources say their guy can pull Essex easier than can Scutari if it comes to that, while the Bergenite’s detractors in his home county – including those more aclosely aligned with Stellato – insist he’s not as popular in the caucus as Scutari.

But by the looks of Sweeney and Sarlo huddled at Stony Hill, Sarlo’s closeness to that power structure appears intact and vital.



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