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A South Jersey source, irritated by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s endorsement of Governor Phil Murphy, couldn’t help but see it as a nail in the statewide Democratic Primary coffin of state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
The source had nursed hopes of DiVincenzo holding out and thereby leaving open the possibility of support in Essex for the South Jersey ironworker turned senate prez with gubernatorial aspirations.
“Sweeney is done with the Joe D endorsement,” the source said.
“Steve must be feeling the walls closing in,” the source added glumly, even as allies of the senate president denied anything was wrong, never sought an endorsement, and noted that Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-29) would be sworn in again tomorrow as senate pro-temp prez.
She’s close to DiVincenzo.
Not too long ago, Sweeney, the political acolyte of powerful South Jersey Democratic Party Power Broker George Norcross III; and DiVincenzo, the North Ward ward of powerful Democratic Party leader Steve Adubato, Sr., had reason to celebrate their political connectivity, significantly sustained through eight years of Chris Christie by the Republican governor’s good relations with the organizations of both of them.
They shook off bumps in the relationship, like then-Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) of Essex County going a little rogue and annoying the old boys’ wing of the troika (namely Sweeney and Christie).
But Murphy’s presence changed the game.
Hardly, the South Jersey source added with a touch of pride, and sources close to the head of the senate said he hasn’t yet begun to fight.
“He will be more dangerous than ever for Murphy,” the source said. “He is the senate president. Everything can die in the senate.
“The Leroy thing caught Steve and [Norcross] by total surprise,” he added.
Essex County Democratic Commitee Chairman LeRoy Jones last month cut a deal with sitting Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie without including Norcross and Sweeney, which they took personally, insult added to injury when DiVincenzo backed Murphy’s reelection, the political equaivalent of kicking sand in Sweeney’s face.
South Jersey noticed, and is seething as a result.
Of course, there is life after such a loss.
For years, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) logged significant mileage going up to North Jersey in pursuit
of statewide support in the event of a senate vacancy, efforts not dissimilar from Sweeney’s own frequenting of Newark and the environs.
Chair of the House Energy Committee, a reborn Pallone is one of the most powerful people in Congress.
Moreover, a victory by a Democrat over President Donald J. Trump could change the game, of course, if Murphy were to leave prior to the 2021 Democratic Primary for the administration of a Democratic ally in the White House. Although, it would be tough to primary Oliver, the former speaker with the troubled Sweeney-Christie past, who’s now Lieutenant Governor.
“Horrible optics,” acknowledged the South Jersey source.