By Wally Edge | October 5th, 2009 - 11:30pm
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Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), a three-term Assemblywoman from Essex County, has the votes to become the next Assembly Speaker - the third most powerful position in state government.  She has a hard count of 34 (assuming all of the Democrats supporting her win in November), and a soft count of 36.  Oliver is positioned to become the first woman Assembly Speaker since 1965, the first from Essex County since 1973, and the first African American since 1975.

Late this afternoon, Oliver emerged with one significant endorsement: Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro).  Greenstein, a close political ally of Oliver's rival, Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), had professed her official neutrality as recently as 3:30 PM today.  Expect Watson Coleman, who has no endorsements outside her own district, to drop out the race.

Also, expect Greenstein's running mate, Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton), to endorse Oliver soon.  DeAngelo had held back his endorsement at the request of Mercer County Democratic leaders, who were backing their home county candidate. 

Democratic sources say that Greenstein went with Oliver to save her post as Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair.  She would have certainly lost that job had she not gone with Oliver, but her relatively late endorsement does not guarantee her the chairmanship.  Sources say that Peter Barnes (D-Edison), a lawyer and the brother of the Hunterdon County Prosecutor, is also in contention to chair the panel.

The tally:


Definite Oliver (34)

Burlington (1): Herbert Conaway
Camden (6): Bill Collins, Jack Conners, Angel Fuentes, Louis Greenwald, Pamela Lampitt, Donald Norcross
Cumberland (3): Nelson Albano, Matthew Milam, Celeste Riley
Essex (9): Ralph Caputo, Albert Coutinho, Thomas Giblin, John McKeon, Mila Jasey, Sheila Oliver, Fred Scalera, Grace Spencer, Cleopatra Tucker
Gloucester (2): John Burzichelli, Paul Moriarty
Hudson (2): Ruben Ramos, Caridad Rodriguez
Middlesex (6): Peter Barnes, Craig Coughlin, Patrick Diegnan, Joseph Egan, Linda Greenstein, John Wisniewski
Somerset: (1) Upendra Chivukula
Union (4): Joseph Cryan, Gerald Green, Annette Quijano, Linda Stender

Likely Oliver (1)
Hudson (1): Charles Mainor

Leans Oliver (1)
Passaic (1): Gary Schaer

Definite Watson Coleman (2)
Mercer (2): Reed Gusciora, Bonnie Watson Coleman

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