LD 34 agony: with gubernatorial field unresolved, North Jersey district a question mark
By Max Pizarro | January 4th, 2013 - 1:31pm
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From top to bottom, the 34th Legislative District has arguably the most volatility right now among legislative districts heading toward the 2013 Democratic Primary.

It starts with the gubernatorial election.

Former Governor Dick Codey used to represent portions of the 34th and remains a well-known area brand. Sources say despite his battles with Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Codey would be well positioned for a play at the Democratic Party line in Essex.

But DiVincenzo doesn't want to empower Codey ahead of the county executive's own 2014 re-election and would be reluctant to back his longtime nemesis. 

Most people don’t know whether or not Codey will run for governor this year. There are those Essex sources who insist it’s simply not happening, and others who say his continuing conversations with party sources indicate that he could ultimately decide to run.

Some Democratic chairs Thursday voiced frustration on a conference call with Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski, decrying the extended Codey timeline.  

If he gets in, the former governor would be a game changer in LD 34 – but he wouldn’t be the only candidate in the race.

Newark-born and Nutley-raised state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) is already a declared candidate for governor, and as first reported by PolitickerNJ.com, she is in contact with DiVincenzo.

DiVincenzo says he likes Buono. But like other Democratic Party executives with close ties to Gov. Chris Christie, the powerful county executive radiates little enthusiasm for bucking the Republican governor in a general election.  

Place that unfinished gubernatorial picture on top of the developing LD 34 context, where state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34), Montclair, has relentlessly stepped up her schedule of public events.

Following her disappointing third-place finish in last year’s CD 10 Democratic Primary, Gill has gone into rubber chicken circuit legislative district overdrive, working rooms with renewed public relish.

She already has opposition.

Former Obama Campaign Director (and close Newark Mayor Cory Booker ally) Mark Alexander publicly declared his challenge of Gill last summer, as first reported by PolitickerNJ.com.  

So far, Alexander has raised money but had little success capturing the imagination of Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Phil Thigpen, who is also not personally overwhelmed by Gill.

Gill has the advantage of past peace treaties and DiVincenzo’s reluctance to start unnecessary wars.

Despite the fact that she ran against the organization in last year’s congressional primary, DiVincenzo post-election didn’t appear overly exorcised about payback. In fact, he seemed amenable to letting Gill go back to the Senate in 2013 rather than ignite a civil war a year ahead of his own 2014 re-election schedule.

If Gill doesn’t run – and there’s no evidence presently that she will do anything other than return - Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) - a close DiVincenzo ally - could decide to move up and run for Senate instead of pursuing re-election.

As it stands, Oliver heads back into choppy caucus waters, but sources close to the speaker tell PolitickerNJ.com she won’t run against Gill.

The other current district representative, labor leader Assemblyman Tom Giblin (D-34) of Montclair, has strong alliances countywide, close ties to Codey, and a key ally in Passaic County Chairman John Currie, but likely would not run for Senate against Oliver of East Orange.

In the eyes of many of his peers, Giblin has senatorial gravitas, but barring the ideal gubernatorial and local complement, Oliver’s city carries too much clout for him to overcome, which leads to the East Orange mayor’s race.

East Orange contains 17,000 registered Democratic votes, or nearly half the number of registered Democrats in the 34th District. What happens on the ground there heavily impacts the rest of the district, and the situation is fluid.

Much like Codey in the governor’s race, veteran East Orange Mayor Bob Bowser is so far publicly unclear on his future course.

As first reported by PoliickerNJ.com, Essex County Freeholder Carol Clark this week declared her candidacy for mayor of East Orange, and like Bowser, is not a close ally of the county executive’s.   

Lester Taylor, law partner of former Gov. Jim Florio, appears poised to get in the race, very likely with the backing of the local Democratic Party allied with DiVincenzo.

How those candidacies fit together with the ones above them will help determine the outcome of who gets the line, and who wins.

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"This is my first Mark Smith event. There have been a lot of changes in Hudson County over the last year and a half, and the most important change that has happened is that there really is unity. For the first time, we really are working together. Despite political differences. Mark and I have worked very hard to repair that. I'm really happy to be here in support of him, because I recognize that when you work together, politics becomes secondary and you really have time to focus on government, which is the most important thing." - Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop

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