Sources: Suarez Holds the Pole Position for AG Amid Political Buzz


Moves-making in the name of diversity and regional balance will define the early portion of a Governor-elect Phil Murphy should he defeat Republican gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno next week. Murphy leads Guadagno by double digits in all public polling.

The subject of the Office of Attorney General, and specifically who will next serve in that position, continues to dominate insider conversation.

Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez has had the pole position for most of the year, largely on the strength of the role Hudson Democrats, and particularly powerful state Senator Nick Sacco (D-32), played in making Murphy the Democratic nominee for Governor. Part of the political calculation for Suarez – in addition to pure tribute to Sacco – is the assurance of cabinet diversity, especially against the bland, white male backdrop of Murphy as governor, Steve Sweeney as Senate President and Craig Coughlin as speaker.

But if Democratic State Committee Chair John Currie – said to crave another term as chair – cannot summon support to go again, and sufficient internal will in Murphy World simultaneously tugs the governor-elect in a direction other than Suarez, State Committee Vice Chair Lizette Delgado Polanco appears to be in a good position to succeed Currie. At the very least, her job as the political director of the Carpenters gives her appeal to the Building Trades-affiliated South. If Murphy and his allies for whatever reason need to move away from Suarez, Delgado Polanco could – from a public relations standpoint – provide the Latina balancing act assist in a key statewide leadership position, opening the way for Murphy to go elsewhere for AG. Then again, Currie’s desire to continue to be state chair may put Murphy in a real pickle. Currie was the linchpin in making Murphy the nominee. Murphy didn’t give him his preferred choice as LG. Another diss in the name of corralling a new AG may be too hard for Currie to bear.

A source told InsiderNJ that it’s not happening, regardless of what goes down with Currie and Delgado Polanco, and expressed confidence in Suarez and her continuing solid footing for the job.

it’s not a done deal.

But it’s politically solid.

Not alone because of the Hispanic card.

Or the Sacco card.

But additionally because she has strong support from the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), thereby creating layer on layer of political reinforcement for why she should be Murphy’s choice.

She remains the favorite, and even a strong favorite.

Other AG names circulated, however, and they include:

John McKeon

Paul Josephson

Phil Sellinger

Jerry Zaro

An assemblyman from the 27th District, McKeon appears to be casually auditioning for the job, suing the sitting Attorney General for alleged inaction in the malfeasance case of the former Hunterdon County Sheriff. He also played John Wisniewski for the Murphy Campaign as part of Murphy’s Democratic Primary debate prep. But McKeon is also perceived to be close to statewide lightning rod Senator (and former Acting Governor) Dick Codey. If former Codey COS Peter Cammarano is indeed Murphy’s choice for chief of staff, sources worry about doubling down on Codey World with Cammarano as COS and McKeon at AG. South Jersey, in fact, wouldn’t allow it, one source insisted. He would also create the appearance of a dominant Irish American Statehouse.

A former chief counsel to the governor and chief of authorities for the state of New Jersey Office of the Governor under Jim McGreevey, Josephson serves as counsel for the Murphy Campaign. Unlike McKeon, who has not played a frontlines role in the campaign, Josephson has been intimately involved in Murphy World. An attorney with Duane Morris, Josephson – according to the firm’s website – represents clients in a “broad spectrum of business matters, usually involving significant public interests or regulated by government agencies, including government contracting and administration; business permitting and licensing; economic incentives; development/redevelopment; condemnation and regulatory takings; transportation and infrastructure; environmental, energy, banking and insurance regulation; government ethics; and election and campaign finance.” Of the Suarez alternatives, Josephson has spent the most buttoned down bunker-time with Murphy on the trail. But one source fretted that he has too much reach beyond the discernable political world to give any governor – particularly one who lacks the deep-set political relations of Murphy – comfort.

A powerhouse fundraiser in Democratic Party politics, Sellinger, for his part, hosted one of the bigger events for Hillary Clinton last year, and is a respected Greenberg Traurig attorney. A former Assistant U.S. Attorney and New Jersey federal clerk, Sellinger has more than 30 years of trial experience and “has led litigation teams in a wide variety of class actions and other complex cases in state and federal trial courts and appellate courts, including the New Jersey Supreme Court, around the country,” according to Greenberg Traurig’s website.

Also said to have some cocktail conversation pep is the name of Jerry Zaro, a Sills Cummis and Gross attorney and former Chief of the New Jersey Office of Economic Growth in the cabinets of Governor Jon S. Corzine(D) and Chris Christie(R).

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