On June 7, 1927, showman Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly hoisted himself up a flagpole over the Hotel St. Francis in Newark. This kind of entertainment was known as “pole sitting” and was one of the idiosyncratic spectacles of its time. What did Kelly do? He sat there. Originally he planned to stay on the pole, overlooking the Essex seat, for eight days but ended up doing so for twelve. Onlookers turned their noses skyward to watch the man read the newspaper, sip coffee, and burn through cigarettes day and night. It wasn’t an intense kind of sport, per se, but rather a stunning example of the human ability to stay put.
Much like yesterday’s Garden State primary elections.
Across New Jersey, swallowed up by a pungent, smoky haze as Canadian fires consume vast tracts of ancient forest in maelstroms visible from the International Space Station, some voters remembered that there was a primary election. A particularly low turn-out, however, could not be ascribed to the toxic haze, but rather the lack of inspirational contests, with a few notable exceptions.
On the local level, a Parisippany-Troy Hills Republican primary had set a retired police officer and Board of Education member, along with his small businessman running mate, against a ticket led by incumbent Councilman Paul Carifi. ailure to properly file ELEC reports, and running off the line, doomed the campaign of the allegedly fiscally-adept opposition (the administration had been criticized for raising taxes). Carifi’s team will sail forward to the general election with confidence.
The power structures are safe. Former Governor Dick Codey bested Nia Gill, perhaps giving Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones something to smile about, given his own primary collision with her twenty years ago back when he was an assemblyman.
Senator Ed Durr, who overthrew Senate President Sweeney, fended off a primary challenger in Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer and looks set to solidify his blue-collar roots in the district. No doubt he intends to prevent another coup d’etat, unless the Democrats can summon up some working-class power of their own in the post-Norcross age of South Jersey.
Joe Pennacchio, who was scratching his head after being labeled by Tom Mastrangelo as a woke and broke lefty, carried the day in LD-26 in the end. Pennacchio, along with his unquestionably conservative running mates of Assemblyman Brian Bergen and Assemblyman Jay Webber, snuffed out the resurrectionist hopes of BettyLou DeCroce and running mate Robert Peluso. At the same time, radio host Bill Spadea, a name often thrown around as a gubernatorial contender looking to capitalize on the Rowdy Side of the Right, was knocked by Senator Jon Bramnick, although not by name, while Spadea-supported candidates in South Jersey fared poorly.
Perhaps this is a sign that more moderate Republican voices will start to reclaim their place on the GOP stage? When Shipwreck Kelly sat on his perch almost a century ago looking over Newark, burning up cigs as the urban breeze carried industrial smoke into his face, he had nearly two weeks to carefully contemplate what he surveyed around him before climbing down and rejoining society. The time may now be set for the ambitions of level-headed Republicans who aren’t named Jack Ciattarelli to slide down from their vantage points and enact a ground-game of their own.