A political taffy pull is underway in Hudson County, where allies of state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34), West Ward Newark Councilman Ronald C. Rice and Newark Council President Donald Payne, Jr. all want Hudson County Democratic Committee Chairman Mark Smith to back their individual candidates for Congress in the 10th Congressional District.
Fifty-seven percent of the new 10th District falls within the boundaries of Essex County, where sources say Payne has a bug leg up on gaining the coveted county line. The other 43% is divided between Union and Hudson counties.
Sources say Gill has the advantage to get the line in Union, where she enjoys a close relationship with power broker state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20). A source close to the process in Union, however, says it's not a done deal, by any means.
If Gill can land Union, Hudson becomes a critical question mark.
A source close to the process said if Gill possessed the lines in both Union and Hudson, she would have a legitimate shot at the nomination. Her Montclair suburban Essex base gives her a base of operations to generate votes in Essex to add to her presumed advantages in the out-lying counties if she can get their support.
Then there's the gender factor. Of 170,000 dedicated CD 10 voters, 100,000 are women.
Under-the-radar murmurs among Democrats persist over Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo's continuing poliitcal alliance with Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Whatever considerable party goodwill the Payne name generates in Essex comes with the association of Payne ally DiVincenzo. The powerful county executive has intra-party enemies who would sooner stick it to him than honor the legacy of the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne.
If those players can get to Smith, they may be able to advance Gill, but sources also say DiVincenzo's allies are in dialogue with North Bergen Mayor/State Sen. Nick Sacco (D-32) and want to prevent a Gill run-around in Sacco's home county.
The dynamics of Hudson County politics played critically in last year's Speaker's battle, when Smith allies coalesced around challenger Joe Cryan only to get outflanked by Sacco, who backed the re-election of DiVincenzo ally Speaker Sheila Oliver.
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"The governor has allowed political cronyism to continue and even flourish, rather than stamp it out, with some of his closest confidants enriching themselves through millions of dollars in state contracts, and legal and lobbying fees, an Asbury Park Press review of thousands of pages of campaign, lobbying and contracting documents found."- The Asbury Park Press
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