Let me set the scene. It’s day one of the lame duck session at the state house. Reporters have gathered in room 109 across from the Assembly Chamber for what we are told will be a 1:30 press conference with the new Democratic leaders of the Senate and Assembly.
But the leaders don’t walk in until after 3 pm. About two hours earlier the Assembly Dems sent word via email that Sheila Oliver had been chosen as Speaker by the caucus, and Joe Cryan had been elected Majority Leader. So, my wheels start turning…the cause of the hour and half dealay is in the Senate. I was told Codey had called Sweeney last week to concede the Senate Presidency, so it probably wasn’t that. Was it the selection of other committee chairs?
Well, turns out it was gay marriage. For weeks, I have been told that Democrats in the Senate have yet to discuss it as a group behind closed doors. Yesterday they did just that, and apparently it did not go smoothly. Some Dems would like to see the bill smothered, while others insist there should at least be a vote.
Meantime, Sean Kean’s office tells me he will not be voting for the bill which brings the number of Republicans willing to potentially support it down to two. There goes that bi-partisan cover that had been sought.
Meantime, Stephen Sweeney will assume the Senate Presidency, Barbara Buono becomes Majority Leader and Paul Sarlo will Chair budget. Lou Greenwald stays on as Budget Chair on the Assembly side.
Congratulations to all the new leaders.
During the press conference I also asked if a decision had been made on DSC Chair, but that question was greeted with skeptical sideways glances as I was told that it is not official government business and will be decided by the DSC. Fair enough, although I am quite certain The selection of the new chair played a role in the horse trading over who becomes what in the world of Democratic politics. harrumph indeed.
John Wisniewski who dropped his bid for Speaker after the powers that be coalesced around Oliver says he will be a candidate for DSC Chair. There is a report that Nellie Pou is also up for consideration. Wisniewski is clear to run now that Corzine is on the way out since the Governor reportedly “hated his guts” for not supporting the the toll increase plan.
One thing is clear, the guard is changing in the Dem party and they can probably use the new blood as a Republican Governor is poised to occupy the State House.