Sources: Baraka consolidating power creates statewide power projection problems for Essex

By Max Pizarro | February 6th, 2014

 

Political insiders closely watching the Newark mayor's race see grim statewide prospects for the political organization of Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, who last year endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Especially jeopardized by a weakened Essex County Democratic organization is the potential of state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) to ascend to the senate presidency once Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) moves out of the position.

Sweeney will use his power as senate president to leverage northern support toward a run for governor.

If South Ward councilman Ras Baraka wins the Newark mayor's contest, he will have reversed the North Ward's run of dominance best exemplified by Ruiz's 2007 victory, and severely broken up Essex County's most important concentration of power.

DiVincenzo backs North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, who consistently trails Baraka in street polls.

The county executive wants to make up for the possible loss of Newark with victories elsewhere - in Irvington, for example, where Mayor Wayne Smith is up this year; and with a strengthened East Orange, Orange and Bloomfield (all DiVincenzo country after key 2013 wins); and by improving ties to incumbent West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi, who was at DiVIncenzo's kickoff.

DiVincenzo foe former Gov. Dick Codey today formally backed Baraka for mayor, and signaled an effort to consolidate anti-DiVincenzo political support.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, a possible challenger to Sweeney in a primary, is allied with operatives now hard at work to elect Baraka mayor as Ramos continues, mutually hampered by former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries.

The loss of Newark for DiVincenzo would expose organizational weakeness that may send Sweeney and South Jersey once again around Essex - they did this last year when they leap-frogged Essex for Hudson - in search of that key alliance in exchange for north country support - to Bergen, for example, and state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36).

Sarlo, sources say, is waiting for the senate presidency with open arms.

He had hoped to succeed Codey when Sweeney, in a show of emergent South Jersey strength, muscled him out of the senate majority leader chair in 2008.

Union County power broker State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) was the deciding vote then in ousting Sarlo for Sweeney, but since then Sarlo and Lesniak have repaired their (probable oxymoron coming up) political friendship.

Simultaneously, the relationship between Lesniak and DiVincenzo has chilled.

Bergen and Passaic are close right now - the relationship between Democratic chairs Lou Stellato and John Currie as tight a bond between counties as exists in the state.

One Democratic Party insider today speculated that South Jersey could forsake legislative leadership in exchange for the governrship by empowering both Sarlo and Bergen with the senate presidency and current Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) and Hudson by leaving him in the lower house chair of power.

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