As reported on Sunday and in accord with her word to bail on her candidacy in the event that she flubbed Union County, CD7 candidate Linda Weber will soon formally bow out of the contest, leaving behind an internecine leadership narrative among the chairs who tried but failed to same-page the contest.
It went something like this.
Pre-convention season, the chairs had a conference call and kicked the tires on all the candidates in Congressional District 7.
The Democratic chairs whose counties fell within the 7th chatted amiably about the prospects of those candidates in the contest.
A source familiar with that call said they agreed the best person to go up against U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) would be a woman, and at that time Berkeley banker Weber looked like the strongest candidate in a big and impassioned field of contenders.
They took a roll call.
All the chairs agreed on Weber.
Essex County Democratic Party Chair Leroy Jones;
Somerset County Democratic Party Chair Peg Schafer;
Hunterdon County Democratic Chair Arlene Quinones Perez;
Warren County Democratic Chair Tom Palmieri;
and Morris County Democratic Chair Chip Robinson.
Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22), then the chair of Union County, was ill at the time and was likely not on the call, but Union was fractured anyway and rent by its own internal struggles in the lead-up to a chair’s contest to succeed Green.
People were thinking more about Union than CD7 unity.
Anyway, sources came away from the conference call with the firm idea of unified support for Weber.
A former assistant secretary of state, Tom Malinowski was interesting, at least one or two of the chairs affirmed, but he would not be well suited for a general election showdown with incumbent U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) in a Central Jersey environment defined in part by the #MeToo Movement and an upsurge of politically-minded women.
Weber, it was, the chairs decided.
Jones and Schaffer would lead the way with a joint endorsement. Jones only had one town – Milburn – in the district – and was more focused on Mike Sherrill’s candidacy in CD11, but he still felt sure-footed about Weber.
So did Schaffer.
They had wanted Union to lead.
They had wanted state Senator Joe Cryan (D-20) to flip the switch and at one point anticipated a pre-Christmas Union lockdown for Weber, who, after all, was from Union. But again, the mangled politics of that county prevented any movement.
So Jones and Schaffer jumped off the cliff.
Then came Hunterdon.
Against a backdrop of division in the ranks, Quiones Perez publicly endorsed Webber.
She had an open process, which Malinowski publicly celebrated; and in a sense, at least where her fellow chairs’ strategy was concerned, it failed her.
Hunterdon went Malinowski.
Then Warren and Morris went for Malinowski, who was fundraising impressively while a deathly burn-rate narrative began to gently gobble up Weber. Irritating the other chairs wo thought they had agreed on Weber, Robinson went the opposite way of Quinones Perez pre-convention when he backed Malinowski. Dropping out of the contest post-Hunterdon, Lisa Mandelblatt cited the money issue in Weber world when she threw her support to Malinowski.
Sources in Essex and Somerset seethed over Hunterdon, Warren and Morris and the inability of the chairs to muscle members to do their bidding. But Weber, the three chairs might argue, was not giving them sufficient reason to stick out their necks.
Malinowski, meanwhile, was riding a half a million dollar war-chest and projecting in debate after debate as a professorial-sounding expert on foreign policy issues, a kind of in-depth anti-Twitter feed animal, who seemed like an acceptable antidote to the hated President’s emotional and egocentric leadership brand.
But Malinowski needed to run against Lance, not Trump, Weber allies argued.
It didn’t matter.
The counties kept flipping for him, infuriating those chairs and their allies who had at the outset locked in with Weber.
By the time the process reached Union, that county was in ruins politically, the new county chairman, state Senator Nick Scutari (D-22), assuming the throne of a broken kingdom. If his rival for the chairmanship had won, Weber would very probably have won the backing of Union. As it was, she lost 7-6, the momentum Malinowski built between Essex-Somerset and Union dovetailing with those initial connections he made to the Scutari wing of the party in Union. It was like two armies – Hunterdon-Warren-Morris; and Union, squeezing the life out of her. She could have survived one of those onslaughts but not both.
The initial two chairs chafed under the appearance of less than daimyo-like control by their fellows in Hunterdon, Warren and Morris; unacceptable, they felt, after that initial conference call. But the other chairs – all suffering the yoke of GOP rule – had the reality of bucking bronco country and lacked those patronage push buttons of control that are the command center equipage of Democratic county leaders.
No that Schaffer had that, but Schaffer was an old school chair who cut her teeth growing up in Union County. She was Union transposed to Somerset.
But it was that Union pre Jerry Green aftermath from which she hailed.
Below is the official announcement from the Weber Campaign:
Today, NJ-7 Democratic Congressional candidate, Linda Weber, will suspend her campaign. Although Weber earned the oﬃcial endorsements of the Somerset and Essex County Democratic Committees, she pledged that she would not continue in the race if she did not secure enough of the Democratic county organization lines to constitute a majority of the Democratic primary vote.
“It with great sadness that I announce that I am suspending my campaign. I am enormously grateful to my family, friends, and supporters without whom I could not have made it this far. I am also grateful to the Somerset and Essex County Democratic Committees for believing in my campaign and my ability to represent and serve the families of the 7th Congressional District. I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my exceptional campaign team for the long hours, unwavering commitment, and unshakeable loyalty. I am proud of the grassroots campaign that we built and the new voices that we brought into the process. Although I am suspending my campaign, I will continue standing up for progressive values and causes. I will continue ﬁghting for gun safety, stronger environmental protections, a woman’s right to choose, equal access to economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, public education, and so much more. Additionally, I will continue to work hard to help ﬂip the 7th District and to elect more Democrats, and in particular, more women,” stated Linda Weber.
Weber, who launched her campaign on Mother’s Day on MSNBC, is most known for having built some of the nation’s ﬁrst online banking applications. Currently, she is the Senior Vice President of IDB Bank. She is also a mother of two sons and resides in Berkeley Heights with her husband of 31 years, Mark Weber, an educator in the Warren Township Public School.