Who will be the Next Goldman Sachs Guy to Break Sweeney’s and Fulop’s Hearts?

Fulop, left, and Sweeney.

The reemergence of Steve Sweeney and Steve Fulop as gubernatorial contenders (Sweeney already announced; Fulop assumed) immediately begs the question: Who will be the next mammoth Goldman Sachs alumnus to bigfoot the pair of perennially ambitious Democratic Party rivals?

Phil Murphy came into being as the party’s best alternative to the kind of establishment fracturing that’s

Murphy
Murphy

great for democracy – and bad for business, a calculation Democrats didn’t just employ in 2017. Jittery party members did the same thing back in 2005, when then Acting Governor Dick Codey appeared to have taken to the job, and rather than backing him, enlisted Jon Corzine (then spinning his wheels as a U.S. Senator) to assume the role of Julius Cesar returning to Rome to “restore order to the kingdom.”

Now, will party bosses – terrified of an inter-county 2025 war and worse, the possibility of their candidate of choice losing and having an antagonist occupy the powerful New Jersey governor’s office – prop up another Goldman Sachs guy as a party figurehead in the name of unity?

As of this moment, the same dynamics – to a man – would appear to exist: North Jerseyan Fulop wants to be governor. South Jerseyan Sweeney wants to be governor. Picking one candidate to the exclusion of the other would mean volatility. A primary would get bloody. Casualties would ensue. Too much risk. The good news for the bosses already sweating another Fulop-Sweeney showdown was they had four – well, three – years to rummage around Wall Street and find a kingly successor to wear the Democratic Party crown – on behalf of the people.

Corzine
Corzine

Of course, Fulop, himself a veteran of Goldman – could make the case that he can serviceably wield the public service scepter in the name of his former employer – and the public. But he lacked the financial heft of Murphy, not to mention Corzine. Moreover, the Sweeney wing of the party nursed a particular lack of fondness for Fulop, which threatened precisely the kind of mayhem the party wanted to avoid.

That said, they party had changed, even since 2017, so had New Jersey, and some other names gently percolated under the eternal rumblings around Sweeney and Fulop. For one, critically, Sweeney – for all his pre-season muscle four years ago – lacked northern influence. As soon as Murphy (presumably) forced Fulop out of the contest, the sitting senate president figured he could stay alive with nurtured friends in Essex and maybe even elsewhere. But Murphy locked up all that support almost immediately, effectively suffocating Sweeney. Keep in mind, that happened before South Jersey Democrats lost four (well, to be fair, three, because they lost one, replaced it with another, and then lost that one, too) state senate seats, experienced the party affiliation switch of Jeff Van Drew from Democrat to Republican, lost the CD-2 Democratic Primary, failed to put their fingerprints on the party chairman’s fight, and, oh, yeah, lost the senate presidency. Oh, and – Sweeney was that senate president, who lost his reelection bid to a nonunion trucker. It hardly feels like Sweeney – already untranslatable up north in 2017 and notwithstanding the wisdom “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” of Kelly Clarkson’s smash hit – has much heft left.

Mayor Baraka
Baraka

Of course, none of that prevented a source yesterday from surmising that Ras Baraka’s ejection of LIUNA leader Eddie Osborne would boomerang on Baraka in 2025, and throw an advantage to Sweeney in the quest for a 2025 endorsement from the Laborers. A Baraka source dismissed the notion as poppycock, pointing out that the Laborers – as a unit of the Building Trades – already had a better chance of backing Building Trades veteran Sweeney than Baraka. More on Baraka’s fledgling gubernatorial candidacy in a minute.

Sweeney dropping not one – but several notches – since the time he left office, wearing the ignominy of 2021’s most shocking loss, and teetering since the 2017 election cycle at the edge of looking like someone in terminal revenge mode – remained the most salient political point.

As for Fulop, who at least lacked Sweeney’s problems of 1. Being out of Office; and 2. Occupying a part of the state that most North Jersey Democrats didn’t care about before it turned red, the emergence of next-door-neighbor Mayor Baraka of Newark presented its own hazards to the Jersey City Mayor. Perhaps Sweeney figured an all-out pushing and shoving match between Baraka and Fulop gave him his best chance at defining himself as that Murphy-like alternative to intra-party madness. One could already picture South Jersey operatives doing everything humanly possible to pit Baraka against Fulop, deepen whatever natural rivalries exist between Newark and Jersey City, and make inevitable a showdown between Essex and Hudson counties in time for Sweeney to reassert newly recalibrated relationships and present himself as “the only sane choice.”

Yes, it seemed like an extraordinary stretch.

Oliver
Oliver

If Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver also radiated a gubernatorial glow (the former speaker sought statewide office in 2013 when she ran for the U.S. Senate, had credit as the Murphy Administration’s number two, frequent experience as acting governor, DCA Commish chops, and rootedness in Essex County), she would also have to gut her way through the thicket of others on her home turf (Baraka among them) not to mention home region (Fulop) who wanted the prize, not to mention the associative baggage of having occupied a ticket that won by just three percentage points in a state with a million more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Would Oliver find herself the casualty of Murphy fatigue?

It begged another question.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) once famously said in 2017 that he didn’t not intend to walk down another Corzine road with Murphy, or something to that effect, before someone, presumably what the party then referred to as the quad county leadership in pursuit of anyone but Sweeney, convinced him of the pragmaticism of the Murphy play.

But if Goldman fatigue had already set in then, the tortured years of deepened fracture during the Murphy era (it all seemed a blur now, in retrospect, with the governor salvaging some face, especially in the aftermath of his own narrow win and Sweeney getting stretchered off the field, but it happened: the antagonism over the state chair position, the Al Alvarez-Katie Brennan scandal, the tax incentive scandal, the behind the scenes ninja wars) might have at last promoted the party to rethink its go-to Goldman strategy.

The trouble is it still had the challenge of splintering up north (Oliver, Baraka, Fulop) and the nonalternative alternative in Sweeney, who was even weaker now than then.

“Cory Booker would clear the field,” South Jersey Democratic Party Powerbroker George Norcross III

Booker
Booker

said continuously in the lead-up to 2017, in reference to a Booker gubernatorial run. But Booker never ran, and nothing – at this precise moment, anyway – suggests the globetrotting junior senator has the appetite to occupy a West State Street, Trenton professional address.

Middlesex likes the idea of promoting mild-mannered Speaker Craig Coughlin, who had somewhat of a breakout moment earlier this month when from the rostrum the always non-demagogic speaker quietly declared his “outrage” over COVID-19 vaccine antagonistic Republicans storming the chamber. The selection of Senator Nick Scutari (mostly undertaken by Middlesex) of senate president had the appearance of giving Coughlin a seesaw partner who would not threaten a gubernatorial run.

But Coughlin hardly presents a “clear the field” kind of presence.

Coughlin
Coughlin

At his best, arguably, he presents a worst nightmare factor for Sweeney, as the establishment option not from Essex County determined to wear the tires out on a fleet of SUVs in pursuit of a 2025 Essex County endorsement destined to land elsewhere.

That leaves U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11) (would she even want it; like Booker, she had the vision accompanying a federal perch) and state Senator Troy Singleton (D-7).

A former Navy helicopter pilot, Sherrill perhaps sent a shiver of fear through party members long accustomed to advancing candidacies devoid of obvious public interest priorities. “What is she going to do for me?” might echo fairly steadily among the “intelligentsia” of the party over the course of the next two to three years. Moral, she presented perhaps a significant risk to party bosses

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11).
Sherrill

schooled to be suspicious of – and antagonistic to – ethical behavior in the public square. She, of course, had to get through redistricting (where sources said she could augment her chances at battleground reelection by picking up the rest of Democratic Party stronghold Montclair), and a tough 2022 midterm election season. But she presented Essex with an opportunity to go for its own alternative (not Sweeney, not Coughlin) to the spiderwebbing already visible in the Newark-Jersey City designs of Baraka and Fulop, and make a case to the other northern counties for a strong general election alternative to former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who almost just defeated Murphy and is running for governor in 2025.

Singleton

Singleton of South Jersey – already said to be having conversations with leaders north of the equator (presumably regarding his own gubernatorial candidacy) – met with early approval in certain segments of the Democratic Party keyed into the developing governor’s race, and emerged – at the very least – as a strong  Sherrill ticket-mate option.

The test for the party (could it withstand a real rebellion if it failed to take corrective action) ultimately would be whether it could take the revolutionary step of actually promoting one of its own from the ranks of elected officialdom, and if Sherrill did indeed surface with any kind of insistence and consistency as Democrats attempted another direction to contend with Ciatarelli, whether the party – so long adept at talking the talk but not walking the walk – would actually run – instead of yet another Goldman Sachs guy – a woman – to catch up with the Republican Party, which helped make history in the 1990’s when it backed Christie Todd Whitman, still the first and only.

Of course, it was volatile.

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11 responses to “Who will be the Next Goldman Sachs Guy to Break Sweeney’s and Fulop’s Hearts?”

  1. Since 1970, five candidates, three Republicans (Kim Guadagno in 2017, Brett Schundler in 2001, Jim Courter in 1989) and two Democrats (Jon Corzine in 2009, Jim Florio in 1981) have tried to lead their party to a third straight victory in the governor’s race. They all lost. Furthermore, since 1950 when the NJ governor went to a four-year term, only once has a party won three or more elections consecutively, the four straight victories by the Ds in the 1950s and 1960s (Robert Meyner in 1953, 1957; Richard Hughes 1961, 1965). Given this history, why would any D want to run in 2025?

  2. Sweeney is a National Embarrassment to the state and the nation. He’s a laughing stock.

    Saturday Night Live did a clip
    with Sweeney wandering around the cemetery with a bag trying to get ballots from dead people. It was hysterical. It really showed how the South Jersey machine really does use dead people to vote and cheat to win

    Sweeney is finished. He lost terribly to the truck driver. He’s a hated man in south Jersey. Nobody likes sweeney. He created a lot of damage and ruined lives

    He interfered in state jobs and had innocent people fired. He hired NJ.com and Courier post to write reckless misleading stories that is manufactured news stories orchestrated by this Sweeney and his political hacker S.A.

    Sweeney will Never win Governor
    Next time he may beat by an animal

    He needs to stop going around telling people he’s running for Governor. He looks Desperate and dumb. He should just crawl back into his Hal’s

  3. Fulop won his election! Fulop has support in the North and South

    Sweeney LOST – Democrats voted against Sweeney. Sweeney is hated in south Jersey that’s why he was roaming the cemetery looking to get dead people on this ballots

  4. Since he refusing right his wrongs, he will experience a lot more disappointments and hardships in his life. NO GOOD WILL come
    To him or his family

    The more Sweeney and his friends attack innocent people, the more Gods wrath will fall down on him

    These kind of people think they are above the law, they think they have power over others. They have NO power and they will pay heavily for the wrongs they’ve done

    God don’t bless NO mess

    Sweeney got
    Nationally exposed

  5. Weinberg was an old lady who Sweeney manipulated
    These SJ boys like women they can manipulate and charm with their BS

  6. No body likes Sweeney. South Jersey Democrats and Republicans came together and had a party to celebrate Sweeneys massive loss to the truck driver who only paid 153 bucks to beat Sweeneys flat behind

    Sweeney is a National embarrassment. He will Never be Governor or win any election. He’s done just like Christie with the bridge gate.
    These thugs are seeing a shift. Once the RICO falls down on George and his brother, it over

  7. Fulop is popular in the South and North. Sweeney can’t even win his seat back. Sweeney is now a public embarrassment which became National news about Sweeney to a truck driver for $153 bucks

    Common sense moment

    Sweeney can not even win his seat. He won’t win Governor

  8. Sweeney can even win a local de ate seat. He is making himself look desperate by telling people he’s running. It is also along federal prosecutors more interested in Norcross
    Sweeney should just disappear and never return or he could wind up with it his abuse of power coming to take him down

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