Through the bloody backroom rock fight of Prieto v. Coughlin for the speakership, every other insider has regurgitated some version of the story about how then Governor-elect Jim McGreevey told Speaker Joe Doria (D-31) that he wanted him on the throne when he became governor.
“I was standing right there,” a source said earlier this year in Schuetzen Park, pointing at a piece of carpet where he claimed to have witness McGreevey extend his arm, point his finger at the phlegmatic Doria, and exclaim, “You’re my guy.”
Standing in another corner of Hudson County, this time in Jersey City, a second source this week told InsiderNJ that the names Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) has kicked into cyberspace as evidence of a majority are meaningless.
“The king hasn’t yet spoken,” the source said, referring to the weight of his thumb on the scale of legislative leadership, which (presumably) Phil Murphy will be able to exercise in the event that he defeats Kim Guadagno on Nov. 7th.
The source said Murphy must not allow powerful South Jersey boss George Norcross III to control both legislative houses, which he would if Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Coughlin are allowed to remain intact.
“Politically, he can’t withstand George having that much power,” said the source, who insisted on North Jersey making a play for power with Murphy engaged during lame duck. “He can’t be an effective governor under that kind of weight.
“He has to become involved,” said the source. “He can make the deal to make Donald Norcross the U.S. Senator and eject Sweeney to congress, in exchange for what – I don’t know – making Dick Codey the senate president again. Remember, Codey was with Murphy in the beginning. But then, too, it becomes problematic, because Democrats are trying to be the party of inclusion.”
It’s not too dissimilar from Sweeney, Coughlin, Murphy.
If Murphy can’t budge Sweeney (provided Sweeney survives the NJEA onslaught on Election Day), his other option would be to go after the speakership.
“Mila Jasey,” the source said, eyes twinkling. “An African American woman who has ties to Codey – who’s from Essex County.
“But the bottom line,” the source added, “Is that the king has not yet spoken. And Murphy, if he is to be king, must speak, or rue the day he allowed George to have both chambers.”
Murphy can do it, the source insisted.
“The deal was all done for [Doria] to be speaker, and then McGreevey entered the caucus room and exerted his influence,” the source recalled – and took the speakership away from Doria and made future Congressman Albio Sires head of the chamber. In that case, of course, South Jersey helped bring in Sires and that’s why Joe Roberts was majority leader and Bill Castner was chief counsel. While McGreevey weighed in, notes one source who disagrees in McGreevey’s preeminent role, he didn’t ultimately have a choice with South Jersey engaged at that point on Sires’ behalf, and had he not, Doria, the same source argues, would likely have been out anyway.