Unscientific Political Postscript: The U.S. Senate Debacle


NEWARK – As former U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli (D-NJ) seeks traction for a U.S. Senate bid, sources continue to speculate about a seat U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) could unintentionally leave unattended if he gets jammed up in court come autumn at that pending corruption trial.

There are names in  addition to Torricelli, of course.

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) keeps surfacing as an option.

But it’s difficult to picture the northern chairs standing by to allow Steve Sweeney’s return as senate president, Craig Coughlin of Middlesex empowered as speaker, and the fig leaf of Paterson’s Shavonda Sumter as LG left to stretch across that vast political landscape otherwise known as Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Passaic and then signing off on Norcross, too.

In the event of a vacancy, the four northern chairs have a load of karma on their side in a conversation with (presumably) Governor Phil Murphy.

The reasoning goes something like this – “Phil… sorry, Governor. Governor, you didn’t fight that battle for legislative leadership and now we’re all paying the price. It’s humiliating – a little – to have Sweeney running the state out of South Jersey, with people who didn’t even back you at the outset still in charge, and then Middlesex getting the speakership, and we’re left with nothing. North Jersey – stuck with LG. It’s embarrassing. We’re not criticizing. We needed to get you to governor, and we did that. We couldn’t fight a leadership fight while running a gubernatorial race. But now that we’ve gotten through all that, here’s our chance. You’ve got to appoint someone from North Jersey to the U.S. Senate. It’s the only thing that will allow us to save face.”

“But I take your phone calls. Any one of you four call, I pick up.”

“It’s not enough, Governor. We need a U.S. Senator.”

“But you’ve already got Co…”

“Cory’s going to be president. You can appoint Donald Norcross to replace him, but for now we need to stop the bleeding. Please, Governor, appoint someone from the north as New Jersey’s next U.S. Senator.”

It’s compelling, or would be presumably, for Murphy, who depended on those four chairs to shut down the Democratic Primary and clinch him the nomination.

So, the north it is, or would be.

But Torricelli?

“Look, that’s one other thing, Governor. People are talking about the three Irish guys running New Jersey – Murphy, Sweeney and Coughlin.”

“I understand Sweeney is half Italian.”

“That’s not enough. Please. we need diversity.”

The allies and fans of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) love the iddea of the veteran people power champion taking a senate seat if one becomes available. They feel he’s earned it, and would be great.

But again.


That’s where the argument for Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) becomes more compelling.

“Yeah, but Joe d. wasn’t with us, he was with Sweeney, and came kicking and screaming.”

“Show your mercy and gravitas, Governor, by making Ruiz senator, Governor. It’s only right.”

But of course, Essex County Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones would have competition from the other chairs. Bergen would want a senator. Hudson would want a senator. And who’s to say that there wouldn’t be stiff competition from within Essex?

Dick Codey for U.S. Senate.

Four Irish guys??

It doesn’t matter, someone could argue. The 27th District senator has name ID, goodwill with the public, an Essex base, and was with Murphy early. It would be a great story, after Goldman Sachs icon Jon Corzine big-footed him for governor, another Goldman Sachs guy makes good by giving him statewide office as repayment for being (mostly) on the side of the angels.

Is the ethnic factor a big hurdle?

It’s a hurdle.

But as a placeholder, Codey makes sense, as does Pascrell.

The question is whether either one of them would surmount what impeded Codey in 2005 when he decided just to be a placeholder – and take on an election for the full six-year term, despite possible motivated opposition, particularly and obviously in the case of Codey. It’s difficult, given Codey’s past wars with DiVincenzo and South Jersey, one can picture all the other deals – for senate prez, for speaker, for LG, etc – holding as long as Codey is not the senate  pick. Perhaps Pascrell would end up being a compromise pick. But there are others, and it’s early, and there’s still a trial.





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