The formation announcement this week of Protecting Our Democracy sent more than ripple of interest through New Jersey’s political establishment this week.
As the jockeying among Democratic contenders for governor continues ahead of 2025, the newly formed 501(c)(4) promised “the launch of a robust campaign to defend against attacks on personal freedoms, restore confidence in government and unity in our country, and serve as a bulwark against attempts to undermine the institutions that underpin our democracy at all levels of government.”
All noble causes.
But nobility seldom provokes interest in New Jersey politics.
What did turn heads was the presence of the advocacy group’s founding donor: NJEA President (and Montclair Mayor) Sean Spiller.
Most insiders read the group’s formation as a signal that Spiller intends to run statewide in 2025, more evidence to add to the labor leader’s intentions.
Earlier this year, George Norcross III sat down with Spiller, prompting some lowkey buzz.
Earlier this month, the local elected official led a pro-choice rally on his home turf.
Now, insiders see Spiller as an emerging – and maybe even significant – player in the contest to succeed Governor Phil Murphy.
The implications of yet another Essex County, North Jersey-based contender immediately prompted new questions, especially since Norcross – a South Jersey-based power broker – met with Spiller.
Will Spiller merely serve to chop up the North Jersey field, thereby increasing the chances of someone like Sweeney or Coughlin?
Whatever his best intentions, will he finally only serve to complicate the life of Essex County Democratic Chairman (and State Party Chairman) LeRoy Jones, a political enemy of Sweeney and South Jersey? Jones already has a significant 2025 challenge to grapple with if he indeed favors Mikie Sherrill to serve as governor, for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka has given every indication of running statewide in defiance of Jones trying to keep Essex unified.
Or can Spiller, on the strength of his positioning, relationship-building, power perch as NJEA prez, and local base as an elected official, penetrate and become more than a spoiler?
What do you think?