PLAINFIELD - Giovanna's has been around for exactly 31 years this week.
The candidates for Congress in the 12th District made their way into this legendary eatery past Angelo, and past the bar where two men lifted their heads and blinked.
"What's going on out there?"
"A Union County Democratic Committee meeting," was the reply.
"I'm an independent," said one of the men.
"I'm a Republican," announced the other.
Both heads dropped back on the bar.
The candidates appeared before the power players in a sound proof room behind the bar where County Party Chairman (and Plainfield Democratic Chairman) Jerry Green presided, along with the chairs from Scotch Plains and Fanwood.
In the end, the Union Democrats representing the 12th District backed Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15).
Green said the decision was unanimous.
"Absolutely," said Watson Coleman, when PolitickerNJ asked her if the endorsement was significant. "Each town is important in the district. I already represent a part of the district and I look forward to representing more."
The county held a particular fascination for insiders, who said that with state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) poised to lock up Middlesex, Watson-Coleman assured of strong support in her home county of Mercer, and Somerset already dug in behind assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, Union would prove critical in this already intense Democratic Primary to determine the successor to U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12).
Green said he held each of the candidates in high esteem.
"The people of the 12th District will have an opportunity to choose from any of the three," the Union County Party chairman said. "Ultimately Assemblywoman Coleman made her case as the best candidate, based on her leadership in the party and her experience, including her experience as a former majority leader and as the conference leader. Once she gets elected she will be off and running in Washington. She may be called a freshman congresswoman with leadership. But she will be recognized real fast."
Watson Coleman is a former Democratic State Chair.
She incurred the ire of state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), an ally of Green's and east county party pooh-bah from Elizabeth. Lesniak said he wouldn't "lift a finger" to help Watson Coleman, who, as an ally of last year's gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono, challenged his state party chairman's candidacy by getting behind Assemblyman Jason O'Donnell (D-31).
"I respect Senator Lesniak," said Green. "For him it was more personal than it was political. For me it was strictly business.
"I am going to carry on what Obama started five years ago," the chairman added of his county's decision. "I paid my price. I've been a team player for the 30 years I served in government. I earned the right to make decisions. I am not a boss, but a leader."
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