Sources: Sweeney's Road to Drumthwacket and the South Jersey Statehouse Stratagem
By Max Pizarro | August 4th, 2014 - 11:20am
| More

TRENTON - In addition to dependency on Building Trades muscle, Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) path to victory in a Democratic Primary consists of wringing support from Trenton leaders who also occupy leadership positions within key party committee structures.

Sweeney’s allies trust that politicians’ natural craving either to move up the totem pole – or secure what they have now – will catapult the iconic ironworker to Drumthwacket.

A South Jerseyan whose Democratic allies possess the biggest and strongest regional party alliance in the statehouse, Sweeney would have to rely on relationships with pols in North Jersey, whose Gold Dome careers would improve as a consequence of movement at the top of the legislature and a vacancy on its most powerful throne.

The moves are simple.

Based on the templates of past deals struck by South Jersey Democrats, some variation on the following would occur: state Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) would get the senate presidency vacated by Sweeney in exchange for support by the state’s biggest county for Sweeney for Governor; Hudson would back Sweeney in order to keep Assembly Speaker (and Hudson Democratic Chairman) Vincent Prieto (D-32) in his chair of power; state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) would secure the lieutenant governor position or head of the Department of Education; Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) would follow the path of Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-6) from budget chair to assembly majority leader.

One could conceivably scramble those depending on who or which county is up or down at any given time.

Of course, there are some problems, or at least some unresolved questions.

Note first of all that in this structure, a Sweeney departure to the governor’s mansion does not require the usual legislative balance of power fulfilled by the north/south political seesaws of, for example, South Jersey’s Joe Roberts as speaker and North Jersey’s Dick Codey as senate president; of South Jersey’s Sweeney paired with North Jersey’s Sheila Oliver as speaker followed by North Jersey’s Prieto supplanting Oliver.

The South would have Sweeney in the executive’s chair, and require northern pull to get there, which would – or certainly could – wound certain South Jersey brand names who for years have carefully played the climbing game with the promise of the speakership increasingly near.

Take Greenwald.

He’s right there.

But his ascent does not aid Sweeney’s political endgame.

South Jersey’s contribution to this deal is Sweeney.

Given the South’s disadvantage in population and the importance of the North in a Democratic Primary, everything else has to tilt north.

Maybe a cabinet position?

Or maybe state Sen. Jim Beach (D-6) retires and Greenwald moves up to stand poised to take advantage of a Sarlo slip-up.

Then there’s Middlesex.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski’s (D-19) name hovers at the edge of the gubernatorial bullring. If he doesn’t get the speakership, would he run for governor? Of course, he won’t answer that question.

Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe is a carpenter – that powerful outfit from the Building Trades – whose brass have already trumpeted statewide support for Sweeney. But the sprawling county needs something in return.

Would Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac return to a gubernatorial cabinet as part of a deal?

There are always cabinet positions - which would have to be a big part of the play of his gubernatorial adversaries to hook allies.

Would that be enough to appease Middlesex?

Then there’s Union County, where state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) is playing footsy with a run for governor.

Sweeney has a strong alliance with Union County Democratic Chairman Jerry Green, who’s also a legislator, whose power position would remain intact under the auspices of a Sweeney advance.

But – in an east-west bifurcated county - Lesniak wants something.

Would he settle for a position less important than senate president?

Sources close to the senate president remain confident of Sweeney’s ability to control the moves on this chess board, even as another gubernatorial hopeful, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, last week burnished the support of two other northern mayors: Newark’s Ras Baraka and Paterson’s Jose “Joey” Torres.

Politicians don’t care about the warm and fuzzy feeling they may experience as a result of proximity to the governor, a source argued. They want power themselves, or the belief of power, which is Sweeney’s key to statewide power.

The Back Room

Christie invades South Carolina

On his first visit to South Carolina as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Gov. Chris Christie stayed in "moderate Charleston, in contrast to other potential GOP candidates who made early visits to conservatives elsewhere," according to an ABC News report.

Read More >

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 17th

U.S. Senate race: Bell defends gold standard stance MONTCLAIR - On the same day he was politically brickbatted by the chief adviser to the last Republican challenger to incumbent U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), GOP Senate candidate Jeff Bell stood by a key plank of policy platform: monetary reform...


Legislation needed for publicly financed gubernatorial elections

By JEFF BRINDLE It is critical that the Legislature soon enact a pending bill that would ensure the state’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program is available in the event of a special election for governor.  Not only is there no current legal... Read More >


(9-17-14) Viral Video Prompts Questionable NJ Municipal Ordinance -  Socrates said, “While I might disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say... more »
The Correct Foreign Policy – Neither Fortress America Nor Pax Americana      Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War 2.  It started with the... more »
(Asbury Park, NJ) -- There's a word for someone who says one thing and does another: hypocrite.  There's no shortage of 'em in Trenton -- from ... more »
 The following letter was sent today to Republican state legislators, county chairs, state committee members, and New Hampshire... more »

Quote of the Day

quote of the day

“Clearly there’s some resemblance with Theodore Roosevelt. That direct confrontational style of leadership.” - historian Doris Hearns Goodwin, referring to Gov. Chris Christie.

- The Times of Trenton


Who would make the best running mate for Chris Christie if he lands the GOP nomination for president?:


Visit the page for links to the best collection of information on New Jersey state government.


  • Polls
  • The best blogs
  • Columnists
  • State election results
  • Assembly election results
  • Local party websites
  • And more.