NJDSC’s Appointment of Somerset County Chair Peg Schaffer Could Lead to Compromise in Battle over the Chair Position

The recent appointment of Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair Peg Schaffer to the position of NJ Democratic State Committee Vice Chair has some party members thinking she may be a compromise decision between the current two contenders for the organization's Chair position, which is currently held by John Currie and being challenged by Leroy Jones.

Two party sources speculated that party leadership will end up on Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair Peg Schaffer to lead the splintered and battered party organization.

At the moment, incumbent Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie faces a “challenge” by Leroy Jones to lead the statewide operation.

Jones chairs the Essex County Democratic Organization and leads 1868 Public Affairs, where jammed-up Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore served (he resigned in January) as counsel.

Schaffer’s entrance today as vice chair of the state committee has olive branch implications all over it, a source told InsiderNJ.

The source referred to how Currie himself came into being as the party chair in 2013.

Then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono wanted then-Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell.

The brain trust otherwise known as the South Jersey Democratic Committee interspersed statewide didn’t want O’Donnell.

He was against public pensions and benefits overhaul.

They threw state Senator Ray Lesniak into the sawdust to check O’Donnell.

Lesniak offered more or less the same list of endorsements that Jones’ allies put forward at the end of last year.

In the midst of that standoff, Currie came forward as a compromise choice and prevented Buono from claiming a win.

“That’s what will happen here,” the source promised.

To be clear, the Somerset chair accepted the job with an endorsement of Currie to continue to lead the party and appeared to give the sitting chair a needed boost in his war with Jones.

“I look forward to standing with Governor Murphy and Chairman Currie in the vitally important years to come as we work to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey,” she said.

Still, party members hummed.

In historical context, and with Currie’s own example in recent memory, Schaffer supplanting Lizette Delgado Polanco as vice chair carries more than simply second banana expectations. Jones v. Currie equals Schaffer, or so said the two party sources watching the situation unfold.

“Leroy don’t want that bull-s-t, are you kidding me?” one of the sources said. “He’s a lobbyist. You gotta be s-itting me if you think Lery wants that ‘s-t’. It’s fun for parlor room politics and great for laughs but he don’t want that.”

Schaffer, on the other hand, does want it -evidenced at the very least by her willingness to step into the breach created by Delgado Polanco’s collapse. She’s riding a bit of a hot streak, too, the same way Currie was when the party tapped him.

Back then, the Passaic County Democratic Committee chairman had just helped shepherd U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) to victory in a rugged, post-redistricting Democratic Primary.

Last year, Schaffer picked up two freeholder seats in tough-to-crack Somerset County and helped U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski knock off Republican Leonard Lance.

“She’s a natural,” a party source gushed.

A third source said Chair Schaffer won’t happen, at least not over the political corpse of Currie.

“I think that’s people who wanted Currie out seeing the writing on the wall, that this [Schaffer as vice chair] pushes Currie over the top,” a source said.

Phil Swibinski, spokesman for the party organization, said her ascent past vice chair – as long as Currie seeks the chairmanship – won’t happen.

“Peg is not running for chair,” Swibinski said. “She is 100% committed to supporting John for chair.”

A fourth source agreed.

Currie beats Jones with Schaffer, he insisted.

“This will be all about redistricting and [Passaic, Hudson and Bergen] will never allow it [Schaffer as chair] to happen,” the source said.

It was a little volatile.

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