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ATLANTIC CITY – The battleground commander of his lower house legions looking to build on a super majority, Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) made his sedate case for himself and Democrats in Trenton against President Donald J. Trump and Republicans in Washington.
“It’s getting a little tight, but while Donald Trump wants to build walls, I want to knock down walls and build a bigger caucus room,” cracked the speaker, very nearly channeling Roy Scheider’s “time to get a bigger boat” line from Jaws, to house a state party feeding on itself.
“Let’s go win,” he managed.
He’s an attorney, and he made his case for more Democrats in a mild and understated way.
It’s a simple argument, really, probably the easiest one Coughlin ever made, or so his tone seemed to
His tone was of a man cheerfully greeting a neighbor while walking the dog.
But the overkill element when it comes to sheer numbers if he pulls in some more bodies, was unavoidable.
“His job seems to be to divide people,” Coughlin told the breakfast crowd at the Democratic State Committee breakfast, a hardening of the pleasant in all weather tone almost indiscernible.
He was referring to Trump.
He ticked off the President’s blunders.
Trade wars good for us.
Allows families to be separated.
Calls the media the enemy of the people.
Doesn’t believe in climate change.
He went on and on amid groans.
Then, a ray of light came into the speaker’s voice.
“In Trenton we have a different story,” Coughlin said. “It really is a tale of two cities.”
Minimum wage hike.
Out of network bill.
Standing up for the most vulnerable and addressing the issue of hunger.
Gun safety bills.
Two biggest contributions to he pension fund.
Expanded medical marijuana.
Cheers whipped the stage at the speaker’s feet.
“And we will, someday, have legalized recreational marijuana in this state,” he said.
He wants more, though.
More people in his caucus.
“With your help, we can expand our caucus majority,” he said, as he prepared for a day of South Jersey campaigning, which includes a stop in LD8, ahead of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s touchdown in AC tonight.
Moments later, the former mayor of Coughlin’s home town of Woodbridge, former Governor James McGreevey, received a sustained standing ovation.
And a short time after, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver got her shots in on Trump and boosted her own brand in the party.
“If I wasn’t in the room, bad things would happen,” said the speaker, who, like Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) across the hall, put the infamous state Economic Development Authority tax incentive bill up for a vote in the same core caucus Coughlin wants to expand.
But it was Oliver last week who condemned a General Majority PAC mailer connected to the fundraising arm of South Jersey Power Broker George Norcross III, whose business interests benefited from the tax incentive bill. The LG, moreover, ran afoul of the establishment and Norcross, who publicly criticized her while she was speaker, for not supporting charter schools.