It’s arguably the most interesting political county in New Jersey.
But InsiderNJ has learned that Bergen also has a possible candidate for the job: Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37).
It’s a long shot.
While those allies of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) strenuously resist the narrative of a struck deal to elevate Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) to the speakership in exchange for Middlesex support to restore Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) to his throne of upper chamber power, multiple Democratic sources accept it as almost inevitable.
The Irish-American triumvirate of Murphy-Sweeney-Coughlin puts pressure on the Democratic Party to put up an African-American – and preferably a woman – for the LG spot lest the self-identified party of diversity appear out of sync with its mission statement. That minimizes Huttle’s chances, but there are still those sources in the party who insist the deal for Coughlin is not done, which opens possibilities
Of course, the primary isn’t over, and Murphy – if he holds onto his lead and wins his party’s nomination for governor – will have 30 days from June 6th to pick his running mate. So there’s time. But the combination of Bergen’s political importance and its accompanying lack of power (no apparent senate presidency or speakership) almost require a resume for LG, at the very least.
There are several factors working against Huttle.
Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato is close to Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie, who would prefer his goddaughter, Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35) to have the LG seat. The men are so close, that Stellato would likely yield to Currie – if Currie pushed hard – in the name of North Jersey solidarity. Or, in a fistfight with Middlesex and South Jersey (unlikley but possible), Stellato might use his chits elsewhere and make a stand for the speakership for either Prieto (on the strength of Bergen’s relationship with the incumbent speaker) or Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36), if Prieto bows out and backs Schaer, which appears unlikely. Based on the school funding plan he’s put forward, Prieto appears primed to fight for his speakership.
Huttle could simply get lost in the seesawing byzantium of those politics.
Then there’s the Sweeney-Coughlin deal, the optics of which almost necessitate an African-American LG pick. Don’t forget, too, Essex – like Bergen – lacks a strong seat under the party circus tent at present and might play hard for Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34) as LG. Then again, those Murphy-Sweeney-Coughlin optics could be so awful by the time Murphy’s governor-elect – and the LG an unconvincing power projection platform – that Murphy world Democrats will have to undo the deal for the sake of empowering a minority in a position that matters. After all, Governor Chris Christie didn’t mention LG when he said there are there positions that matter in Trenton: Governor, Speaker and Senate President.
But at the core right now, Huttle looks to be in play as a possible LG pick for Murphy, although for her to prevail, as noted, some other pieces would probably have to move.