The column item was no accident. Sources claim Menendez's old pal, Donald Scarinci was responsible for the placement and timing, part of a message being sent out into the public that the coalition from last August's failed Democratic coup is far from defunct.
Last August, former state Senator John Lynch, Menendez and state Senator Bernard Kenny, led a move to force then Governor Jim McGreevey to resign early enough to force a special election in November that would have Corzine as candidate for governor. Under this theory, Corzine would wait until just before being sworn in as governor to tender his own resignation from the U.S. Senate and then as governor would appoint Menendez to his Senate seat.
Although Acting Governor Richard Codey has not officially declared his candidacy for governor in next year's primary, he has already made moves that look towards a heated primary battle that will pit him against Corzine again. Codey was instrumental in fending off the coup attempt last August.
Codey will likely wait until after his State of the State speech in mid January before actually declaring but a recent rally in Essex County may have tipped his hand when State Senator William Payne made an appearance. Codey is expected to recommend William Payne's brother, Rep. Donald Payne to the U.S. Senate if there is a vacancy.
Codey also seems to be making a move to undercut opposition in Hudson County. Out of 70 appointments made this week, he gave only one to Hudson County, making Hoboken Attorney Barry Sarkisian a Superior Court judge. This may be an effort to seduce Kenny out of the Corzine camp, since Sarkisian is Kenny's law partner. Codey may also be seeking to keep state Senator and Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria in line, by opening the door a little further to an appointment as president of Ramapo College. Although Doria claims he had not applied for the job, Codey just replaced two of the college trustees with his own appointments, paving the way for the appointment if Doria decides he wishes to reenter the academic world.
Of course, Doria took a low blow from the Newark Star Ledger two weeks ago. A columnist there blasted Doria, claiming Doria was not qualified. This remarkably ignorant comment flies in the face of Doria's nearly 20 years as a college administrator and a lifetime as an educator. One Doria loyalist noted that Doria - who has a doctorate from Columbia University in education and administration - should have had a doctorate from New York University first, but had allowed his time limit to lapse before completing his final dissertation.
"He was one step away from an NYU doctorate," this source said. "So he went back and did the whole thing over at Columbia."
Doria got a bad rap
Where Doria's support will go remains a question. Doria remained loyal to Codey during last August's coup. But local officials apparently have sought out his support for Corzine in an effort to bring all of Hudson County's Democrats behind a single candidate in next June's primary.
Kenny, who seems to be seeking to create an overall peace among Hudson Democrats after several years of civil war, has been meeting with most of the factions - including Assemblyman Lou Manzo.
One olive branch Kenny may offer Manzo is the Democratic line for reelection to the Assembly if Manzo backs off from another run at becoming Jersey City mayor. Manzo has some strong advocates including the next Assembly Speaker, Joseph Roberts, who apparently thinks Manzo can become the Democratic attack dog against the Republicans.
Expect Manzo will be named chairman to a key committee early next year. Assemblyman and Union City Mayor Brian Stack - with his focus on local issues - may be passed over for a committee chair. This is no slight. He just may be too busy being mayor and writing legislation to attend to the overwhelming time constraints a chairmanship would impose. Manzo, on the other hand - insiders claim - would focus his attention full time to his Assembly duties.
Making the rounds
Kenny apparently has been rushing around the county from meeting to meeting in attempt to make peace.
Yet oddly enough, one of the most important moments in achieving peace came as a personal gesture Kenny apparently did not expect to become public. During his trips throughout the county, he apparently paused to pay his respects at the grave of state Senator and Jersey City Mayor Glenn Cunningham. Several people apparently saw him there and quickly spread the word.
Whether or not Kenny's move to unite people is to support Corzine or not seem less relevant than the need to bring Hudson County's Democrats back into some semblance of order. Yet expect Kenny - if he remains with Corzine - to produce a full slate of candidates by early January.
Kenny is not acting alone. Buddy Demellier, the man who helped shape the successful Jerramiah Healy mayoral campaign, is apparently also seeking to help bring order, helping to bring people like County Executive Tom DeGise and his chief of staff, Bill Gaughan to the table.
Even maverick Freeholder Bill O'Dea seems to be part of the mix, has been offered an uncontested primary bid for reelection if he throws his support behind the effort.
If Corzine successfully wins his gubernatorial bid, you may also see another surprising move, an effort to draft former Assemblyman and Union City Mayor Rudy Garcia into taking Menendez's seat. While Garcia has stated more than once that he is happily employed as a lobbyist, he may soon find too many people asking him way to often for him to resist taking on the role.
Even Councilman L. Harvey Smith may get a bone out of this with assurances that he can return to his job at the Hudson County Sheriff's office.
To win approval of State Senator and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, the HCDO will apparently agree support Assemblywoman Joan Quigley.
Concact Al Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org