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ATLANTIC CITY – It was going to be hard to deny the divide, as Democratic State Party Vice Chair Peg Schaffer crossed paths with a nemesis, Ocean County Democratic Committee Chairman Wyatt Earp, on the sidewalk outside Senator Vin Gopal’s (D-11) party.
Earp was supposedly going to back Schaffer’s ally, Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie, or at least so thought the minders of Governor Phil Murphy.
But the county chair with a name straight out of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, no doubt in a gesture of peace to avoid a political restaging of that kind of bloodshot and with an eye on “party unity,” in the words of state Senator Joe Cryan (D-20), proceeded to endorse Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones to serve as state party chairman.
Jones’ backers insist the developing contest is already over, a consequence of Earp’s endorsement propelling their candidate over the 50 mark in a scramble for the affections of 98 voting committee members. But Currie’s people – perhaps channeling the late Powers Boothe – say the campaign is just beginning, amid buzz about whether the vote will be a closed or open ballot, and questions about the precise timing of a party convention (the party bylaws allow for the eevent to be scheduled anytime until Jan. 31st).
Shortly after the Earp endorsement, and on the heels of Currie’s announcment with Schaffer, Jones announced the formal declaration of his candidacy for state party chair.
Today, Schaffer – with law partner Joel Shain in a Sam Elliot-style supporting role – came face to face with the man Murphy-files say has more in common with Benedict Arnold than he does with his namesake. If she harbored any ill-will, the Somerset Patriot didn’t show it in her sidewalk encounter with Earp.
“Would love to know what was said,” said one insider, arriving for the first night of festivities at the League of Municipalities, set to occur over the next two or three nights in this broken down gambling mecca where the former mayor a month ago submitted a guilty plea on a charge of stealing basketball money from kids in his home town.
A source familiar with the funfight on the sidewalk outside the Irish Pub told InsiderNJ that the pair merely reflected on a Politico story in which Schaffer was quoted as saying, “Wyatt and I had been good friends for a very long time and I hope we still are.”