INSIDERNJ’S WHO’S UP AND WHO’S DOWN: Week of the Gilliam Resignation

Somerset County Democratic Committee Chair (and Democratic State Party Vice Chair) Peg Schaffer at the podium to launch the conference in Atlantic City last week.

At least in terms of this week’s edition of Who’s Up and Who’s Down, what started out in Atlantic City with the Democratic State Committee’s packed but bifurcated party conference, highlighted by a New Jersey-centric update on her impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump by herself, Speaker Nancy Pelosi; ended up in Atlantic City, with the FBI bagging of Mayor Frank Gilliam.

See below:

Alan Steinberg and Alex Zdan
InsiderNJ alumnus Alex Zdan and InsiderNJ columnist Alan Steinberg on Power and Politics on News 12.


Alex Zdan

He now graces the screen as the host of News 12’s Power and Politics, but we were privileged in 2018 to work with the first-rate political reporter, who furnished InsiderNJ with this storied piece, which formed the foundation of the FBI inquiry into the fatally jammed-up Gilliam (see below).

Craig Coughlin

Murphy, Coughlin and Danielsen
Franklin Flashpoint: Danielsen with Coughlin and Murphy.

Amid text bullying and swamp cover, and hellacious auctioneering from the camps of Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney, the Speaker of the General Assembly, he of the churchmouse demeanor, gingerly straddled Atlantic City and the environs to both kiss the ring of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and those hinterland South Jersey Democrats buoyed by the General Majority PAC. Despite its insatiable underlying message of more, the speaker’s servicable breakfast speech in these temper tantrum-throwing times, moreover, was welcomely devoid of emotion.

Small, Sr.
Small, Sr.

Marty Small

The council president who lost the 2017 Democratic Primary to Gilliam will assume the oath of office as the city’s mayor at an emergency ceremony scheduled for noon tomorrow (Friday).

Stephanie Schmid

A former state department official, the CD4 candidate for the Democratic nomination to go up against U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4) came strongly out of the blocks this week with a reported amassing of over $100,000 in less than month.

Ras Baraka

A town hall on the city’s lead contamination crisis anchored by Newark Mayor Baraka and state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine McCabe threatened to devolve into chaos when Baraka, a former street protester himself, exerted control of the forum. Always literary, but also grounded – and impassioned – the mayor also delivered one of the event’s most memorable speeches at the Democrats’ annual conference in Atlantic City.

A War for New Jersey: Governor Phil Murphy, left, and South Jersey Democratic Party Power Broker George Norcross III.
A War for New Jersey: Governor Phil Murphy, left, and South Jersey Democratic Party Power Broker George Norcross III.



Robert Andrzejczak and Mike Testa

The tweet heard round New Jersey’s first legislative district irritated Republicans close to impressive attorney (the chairman of the Cumberland County GOP) Testa – Republican candidate for Democrat Andrzejczak’s seat. They insist their canddiate is substantially individuated to shake off the blow, but when the President of the United States gives a shout-out of gratitude to U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-2) and your opponents led by Andrzejczak are running as members of The Van Drew Team in the GOP-leaning district, that has to feel a little disheartening. Then again, Testa is working hard and smart and a WYNC ProPublica piece this week detailing the alleged undo influence by Democratic Party Power Broker George Norcross (see below) must cause some discomfort to Andrzejczak, who depends on the General Majority PAC, which has ties to Norcross.

Pat Walsh and Melonie Marano

In the other marquee matchup of the state, Republican incumbent Somerset County Freeholder Walsh wasted no time counter-attacking her challenger (fellow former Green Brook Twp. Mayor) Melonie Marano when Governor Phil Murphy came to Somerville to campaign for the Democratic ticket in a control election year. But Marano trusts in the fundraising heft of the governor and his allies (impressively on display at a Franklin Twp.-based soiree thrown by Assemblyman Joe Danielsen [D-17]) and the connectivity of the progressive Murphy wing of the party with suburban Democrats who last year powered U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7) into office on an anti-Trump wave.

(Bar Notes)

It is interesting to consider how both Testa and Walsh have singled out Murphy as the target by association for the respective foes. In Testa’s case the association feels somewhat forced, by virtue of the fact that Andrzejczak (like Norcross and Senate President Steve Sweeney) is at war with Murphy. In Walsh’s case, the GOP Murphy distress signal is real, as the governor truly does more closely align with a party operation whose chair – with a gun to her head – jumped into the governor’s camp in a statewide party chairman’s scuffle sooner than affiliate with South Jersey Democrats. With his golf course sitting in Peg Schaffer‘s Bedminster backyard, Marano and Democrats are confident they can make the incumbent Republican Walsh suffer the sting of her own (impeachment inquiry-encumbered) party leader.

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



Frank Gilliam

It’s just too dreadul. The mayor of Atlantic City today admitted to defrauding contributors to a youth basketball team of more than $87,000, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced. The disgraced mayor later submitted his formal letter of resignation.

Atlantic City

James Usry. Bob Levy. Frank Gilliam. It goes on without end, it seems, the noxious cloud of illegality that plagues the city and in particular “the leaders” of the down-on-its-heels gaming mecca, where the late Senator Jim Whelan served with distinction before Lorenzo Langford defeated him, and a bow-tied Mayor Don Guardian fought with the overnor of his own party before a corrupt up-and-comer named Frank Gilliam beat him in the 2017 general election only to go belly up earlier today.

The Norcross Brothers

A painstaking piece by WNYC ProPublica outlines how George, Phil and Donald – each in his own sphere

Phil Norcross
Phil Norcross

of influence – drove a tax incentive now under investigation by the FBI and the state Attorney General. This from reporting by Nancy Solomon and Jeff Pillets: “The most powerful political family in the state had spent months helping to engineer the tax break law. George E. Norcross III, a prolific Democratic fundraiser and power broker, had championed the idea among lawmakers; his brother Philip Norcross, a lawyer and lobbyist with deep ties to local and state government, wrote parts of the legislation; and a third brother, Donald Norcross, then a state senator and now a member of Congress, had co-sponsored it. Once the law passed, the Norcrosses’ allies, business partners and clients took advantage.”

The Country

In case you’ve been so buried in state politics you haven’t had the time to notice – it’s in ruins, but we’re in New Jersey, so we’re ok.

George Laufenberg

The former administrative manager of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (Carpenters Union) New Jersey/New York benefit funds ate an indictment by a federal grand jury for defrauding the funds of more than $1.5 million, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced. Laufenberg was charged in a five-count indictment with embezzlement of pension funds, embezzlement of deferred compensation payments, embezzlement of excess annuity fund contributions, conspiracy to embezzle with a “low-show” employee, and making a false statement in an annual financial report. He will be arraigned before a U.S. District Court Judge at a later date.

Lou Reiner

Although he refused to resign over a unanimous call from his colleagues on the local governing body,

Raritan Committeeman Louis Reiner

Raritan Twp. Committeeman Reiner had to surrender the title of “deputy mayor” in the Hunterdon County town as punishment for posting anti-Islamic comments on his personal Facebook page.

Cory Booker

As former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren slug it out for the Democratic nomination, a national poll this week prepared by Monmouth University barely mentioned the presidential candidacy of the junior senator from New Jersey, whose last ratings in the poll put him in low single digit territory. This time he was at 1%, behind Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson. The Bergen Record’s Mike Kelly (one of the last of New Jersey’s real newspaper guys) wrote this (as always) excellent column on the subject here.



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