Sweeney Calling Caucus Members for Senate Prez Re-up


Anticipating no coordinated resistance amid a mangled group of anti’s at best, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) , his ironworker grip secure on a bulk of caucus votes, is “actively seeking another term as president of the upper house of the New Jersey Legislature”, according to NJ Advance Media.

Sweeney “is now formally calling Democratic members of the Senate to secure their support.”

There are historic implications to the gesture, if not any immediate wrinkles.

According to the report: as of January, Sweeney “will be tied for the longest tenure with Donald DiFrancesco, a Republican who held the position from 1992 to 2002. After January, Sweeney would pass DiFrancesco, who also spent nearly a year as governor.”

Despite Sweeney’s ongoing intra-party food fight with Governor Phil Murphy, the cellphone speed dial story had a ho hum feel to it for the leader occupying what Politifax’s Nick Acocella has referred to as the era of the “imperial senate presidency.”

“Middlesex is with him [Sweeney], and that effectively ends it,” a source told InsiderNJ, referring to the power share that maintains the Middlesex-based Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) on the lower house throne in exchange for backing the South Jersey-based Sweeney.

The pro-forma political move demonstrates the strong control the South Jersey Democratic Party operation  exerts over the legislative structure of statewide power.

Sweeney had originally (and probably still does) wanted to be governor, but took a knee when Murphy secured the lines in northern counties home to the biggest Democratic Party pluralities in a primary. In the same pre-2017 time frame, the sitting senate president (with the help of powerful South Jersey Power Broker George Norcross) secured another term as senate president.

Initially, back in 2009, Sweeney and Norcross struck a power sharing deal with Essex County: Dick Codey from Essex deposed and Sweeney on the caucus chair in exchange for Sheila Oliver as speaker.

Then they ditched Essex for Hudson (Vinny Prieto).

Then they dumped Hudson (Prieto) for Middlesex (Coughlin).

The common denominator in all the deals was South Jersey.

And though the Murphy Administration has the Economic Development Authority (EDA) tax incentive program that benefited the business interests of Norcross (and went through a senate overseen by Sweeney) under a microscope, the Sweeney for Coughlin construct remains secure, sources say.

The Republicans, back-benched in the senate in a 14-26 minority posture, have an added disadvantage (perhaps a key reason for Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean’s throw it against the wall to see if it sticks 2020 CD7 campaign) by virtue of South Jersey’s critical, back-protecting relationships with members of the GOP caucus, including state Senator Kristin Corrado (R-40), Senator Kip Bateman (R-16), and Senator Steve Oroho (R-24), among others. Past behavior shows the willingness of those Republican lawmakers to go to Sweeney in the clutch, negating Kean’s ability to end run the sitting senate president by fastening to senators Cody, Nick Sacco, Ron Rice, and Shirley Turner to cross-pollinate an effective anti-Sweeney maneuver. Adding to Sweeney’s insulation – and perhaps Kean’s irritation – is the fact that Murphy’s policy positions are farther from Kean’s than Sweeney’s.

Neither Kean nor Sweeney backs a millionaire’s tax (forever, one supposes, in the case of Kean; and, for Sweeney, as long as Murphy as governor).


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