Good, effective chairs exist everywhere but in both parties they are by and large loyal to a county chair, which makes it hard to gauge individual, muscled-up power. Paraphrasing what one longtime operative told InsiderNJ, the “power” wielded by many municipal chairs keeps their respective county chairmen in power and enables them to reap the rewards of being on a winning team.
But others are powerful in their own right – and for a variety of reasons.
Here are 25 of them…
- Brian Stack, Union City
As mayor/33rd District state senator and municipal party chairman, Stack has his Hudson County city on total lock-down and can at any time employ – depending on what is necessary – either a Tysonesque political mean streak, or Bill Musto-like mystique.
2. Leroy Jones, East Orange
One of Essex County’s bigger towns, East Orange now does not have an incumbent mayor running for reelection because Jones – who doubles as chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee – pulled the plug on him and opted to back an alternative.
3. Joe Cryan, Union Twp.
The sheriff of Union County (and Democratic candidate for state senate in the 20th District) has sat atop the local Democratic Committee in that downtown VFW hall for 20 years. He runs an impressive GOTV operation that has gotten LD20 establishment Dems out of more than a few close scraps over the years, notably in 2011, when Cryan’s Union Twp. offset big numbers from the insurrection in Elizabeth.
4. Brendan Gill, Montclair
The late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s former state director has a seat on the freeholder board and runs the Democratic committee in one of the most progressive municipalities in the state of New Jersey. He’s also the political minder of Phil Murphy, the Democratic Party’s front-runner for the gubernatorial nomination.
5. Peter Carton, Middletown
Monmouth has a true convention which makes the chair of this big town important. One of the most powerful and influential municipal party chairs in the state, Republican Carton controls the county committee in his hometown, practices law for Gibbons (he’s the bond attorney for Middletown) and has used his leverage to put Mayor Gerald Scharfenberger in striking distance of an assembly seat. Remember, it was also Carton who swung support from John Bennett to Shaun Golden in the county chairman’s battle, making him the county’s local GOP kingmaker.
6. Jon Bramnick, Westfield
“Regardless of what I do, he’s a future governor of the state,” comedian Joe Piscopo told InsiderNJ of the assembly minority leader. Bramnick doesn’t bully people so much as gently charmingly humor them over to his point of view. It’s effective. Everyone will be watching Union Republicans this year when Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno competes with Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli (R-16) for the county line. Will Bramnick – a staunch Gov. Chris Christie loyalist – help steer Union away from Christie nemesis Guadagno and into the arms of caucus member Ciatarelli?
7. Lynne Hurwitz, Hackensack
Bergen County’s other feisty Jewish grandmother, Hurwitz is the Democratic Party’s GOTV phone bank queen. A holdover from the Zisa years, she occupies that space one must pass in order to get the support of the party in the county seat of voter-rich Bergen.
8. Fran Adubato, Newark
The Newark North Ward Democratic chair has lieutenants like North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, Sammy Gonzalez (husband of state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz), aand Joe DiVincenzo Chief of Staff Phil Alagia to help with organizing efforts, but of the active brain trust Adubato (wife of legendary party leader Steve Adubato, Sr.) bears the longest standing foundational ties to the North Ward Center – and the title.
9. Michael Friedman, Voorhees
The tough guy Republican committeeman in the South Jersey burgh has beaten the Norcross political machine three times to retain his seat. He hasn’t taken control of the governing body yet but Democrats begrudgingly respect him and worry he could pull it off.
10. Laura Zucker, Teaneck
We get it, Teaneck is complicated. But Zucker was a very early backer of Phil Murphy for Governor, long before it was fashionable. The Democratic Party chair has ties to powerful Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37).
11. Dave Rible, Wall
The ambitious Republican assemblyman – a former beat cop who injured his back on the job – last June went after the party chairmanship in his hometown and won, leading political observers to speculate that if and when state Senator Sam Thompson (R-12) retires, Rible will be well positioned for a duel with slate-mate Assemblyman Sean Kean.
12. Keith Hahn, Edison
The chairman of the local Democratic Party here beat the Doc Paterniti establishment and promptly set about making moves to consolidate power. There are still factions in Edison, and pieces of the complex town that Hahn doesn’t – and may never – control. But he is a critical must-talk-to player in one of Middlesex County’s most politically important towns.
13. Richard Pucci, Monroe
The still-powerful former mayor – and former head of the Middlesex County Improvement Authority – may be the only other person in the state besides the routinely Cayman islands-hopping George Norcross III who makes the bulk of his political moves from a remote location, in Pucci’s case Florida.
14. Pat Council, Newark
Tapped for the job by Mayor Ras Baraka, the South Ward Democratic Chairman doesn’t wield muscle-bound power the way others on this list do, but his close ties to Baraka give him stature on the power projection platform that is the South Ward. he and the mayor have been organizing together for 20 years.
15. Nick Scutari, Linden
The powerful chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee doesn’t have an army of drones on the committee, so he sits far from the top of this list, but he’s Scutari, which counts for something – particularly as the county looks to reshape itself for the future.
16. Mark Razzoli, Old Bridge
The Jersey City cop’s working hard to turn over the blue collar Republican town, filling 100 committee seats and imposing Hudson rules on the sedate suburb.
17. Adrian Mapp, Plainfield
Up for reelection this year, the mayor of the Union County city usurped power from longstanding broker Assemblyman Jerry Green and appears well positioned to fend off local challengers to his power.
18. Anthony Salters, Hillside
The town is a mess politically and subject to the chopping blocks of several chest-thumping prone bosses beyond its borders, but the savvy Salters did successfully challenge and take out Charlotte DeFilippo, the long-serving Union County chair and local boss of her hometown of Hillside.
19. Frank Pallone, Long Branch
The congressman doesn’t control the town – like a Stack, for example – but he has a brother on the local council and captains strong GOTV mobilization on those occasions when he’s on the ballot.
20. Todd Sherer, Mahwah
The Democrat has a huge following in North Bergen County. Also, there are very few municipal chairs as close to Phil Murphy as Sherer.
21. Mike Venezia, Bloomfield
The popular Essex mayor defeated Peter Strumulo to take control of the local Democratic Party organization.
22. Pat Sebold, Livingston
The Democratic freeholder is very active politically, politically in the Jewish and progressive communities.
23. Billy Delgado, Perth Amboy
The 7-1 Democratic advantage town is poised to get a new assemblywoman since Joe Vas imploded seven years ago.
24. Guy Gregg, Washington Twp.
The former GOP assembly minority leader will have fun picking sides in an Oroho-Phoebus scrap in his LD24 political hollow.
25. Al Abdel-aziz, Paterson
The popular South Ward Democrat – co-chair of the party organization in Silk City – has a longstanding rep as a mobilizer, GOTV organizer and fundraiser.
- Adrian Mapp
- Al Abdelaziz
- Anthony Salters
- Billy Delgado
- Brendan Gill
- Brian Stack
- Dave Rible
- Fran Adubato
- Frank Pallone
- Guy Gregg
- Joe Cryan
- Jon Bramnick
- Keith Hahn
- Laura Zucker
- Leroy Jones
- Lynne Hurwitz
- Mark Razzoli
- Michael Friedman
- Mike Venezia
- Nick Scutari
- Pat Council
- Pat Sebold
- Peter Carton
- Richard Pucci
- Todd Sherer