WHO’S UP AND WHO’S DOWN: Week of the Debate Debacle

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)


Annette Quijano

The Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee captained her own legislation – the creation of a second tier of driver’s licenses for residents of New Jersey who lack documented status- out of committee.

Pat Diegnan 

The Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee ran a highly effective meeting on Thursday to get the Joe Vitale senate version of the driver’s license bill through to the next stage of its gestation period. Appropriations committee next.

Cosecha, Let’s Drive NJ and Make the Road

The driver’s license for undocumented workers’ advocacy groups had reason to celebrate this week after Assemblywoman Quijano and Senator Diegnan successfully moved their versions of the bill out off their respective committees.

Ronald Rice 

There’s no one in Trenton who better embodies the quality of citizen lawmaker than the independent-minded, hard-nosed pro from Newark, who gave his backing to the driver’s license bill only after he secured a commitment from Senate President Steve Sweeney on bills changing the laws pertaining to driver’s license suspension and other priorities.

Doug Steinhardt 

Even though he didn’t actually say “nihilism,” we applaud him for appreciating the concept. In any event, the Chairman of the State GOP’s unsparing, razor-sharp elbowed but lawlerly take-down of the Democrats’ Trenton agenda was one of the best pieces of oration in recent memory.

Phil Valenziano

Steinhardt this week announced his choice of Valenziano as the new Executive Director of the GOP State Committee. The former Jay Webber for Congress campaign manager will replace Theresa Winegar who is moving on to serve as Tom Kean’s campaign manager for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional district.


Cory Booker

The junior Senator from New Jersey failed to qualify to make the next debate stage in his quest for the presidency. From The Associated Press: “While Booker has hit the grassroots fundraising threshold to qualify for the December primary debate, his campaign acknowledged it doesn’t expect him to meet the polling threshold. He would need to draw 4% support in four qualifying polls by midnight Thursday, and he currently has none.” But it’s worse than that, really. Booker may have to hobble along as a participant in the presidential race through South Carolina (and maybe beyond) not in hopes of winning, but to keep the bottleneck of New Jersey’s political establishment intact and Phil Murphy unbemirched by the prospect of having to pick another horse. It’s not about the country. It’s about New Jersey. The sooner Booker pulls out, the sooner the Phil Murphy-detesting forces will use the presidential contest as a way of further alienating the governor. They’ll go one way. As long as Joe Biden is still standing, they’re likely to go with him. They’re South Jersey-centric and determinedly centrist, and Biden – a Delaware and Pa. guy – fits the narrative. Murphy himself might be predisposed to Biden for numerous reasons, including his own ties to Obama World as the former Ambassador to Germany. As long as Biden continues to do well with the African American community, there’s also a prime fit for the NAACP-friendly New Jersey Govrnor. But he has to keep an eye on the always easily offended progressive movement, his base, in fact, which sees big banks-enabling Biden as not much better than Trump. Where will Murphy’s local security blanket Ras Baraka go? Will Working Families NJ follow the national organization’s lead and back Elizabeth Warren? What about NJ 11th for Change? It’s hard to picture that group getting excited about Biden. Let’s posit for a moment a world in which John Currie – the Governor’s choice for the job -defeats Leroy Jones for the state chairmanship. His victory would occur with the significant backing of progressives – including most precisely a progressive narrative interpretation of New Jersey politics. Then they turn around, with the governor eyeballing Essex County and his own reelection potential and back Biden. It would be a hard pivot for progressives to endure. Let’s say Murphy zigzags to Elizabeth Warren. Now it’s another battle front in a continuing full-blown war with the South Jersey-Middlesex-Joe DiVincenzo establishment. Let’s say he backs Biden. Is it merely a cynical play to Biden’s best general election chances and the governor’s optimal play for a treasury job or another ambassadorship? In short, his most obvious escape route from the merciless morass that is his adopted home state? What it comes down to is this: Booker in the race prevents the immediate wailing exorcising of these demons, these Jersey devils, if you will, which await his exit at the gate for a new round of political diversion at the Governor’s expense, conceived at its core on the principle of division. Of course, Booker has his own Senate race to think about this year, and will, prior to the April deadline, have to pull out and focus on his reelection to another six years in the U.S. Senate. It may finally fall to inside knowledge-possessing Booker advising the rest of the state on where to go in the prez contest. After all, it will be Booker on the ticket directly underneath the party’s candidate for prez, and a potential for a testament to his powers of love and unity, derided on the national trail, to bring together the broken pieces of New Jersey’s political classes behind the best shot for the party at the presdiency.


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