Democratic State Chairman John Currie was reappointed without much drama Saturday morning, officially bringing an end to an internal feud that consumed the party for much of the last year.
Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones began publicly mulling a challenge to Currie, Gov. Phil Murphy’s pick to lead the state party, as far back as December 2018. A New Jersey Globe tally showed him winning that contest 55-43, though the two sides reached a deal that keeps the seat in Currie’s hands until June 2021.
The two Democrats frequently appeared together, and on Saturday, they both insisted the yearlong spat hadn’t left any bad blood between them.
“As chairman Jones said, he and I would talk. We would have lunch when we could,” Currie said. “But you notice it was never, ever a cross word between the two of us. I would hope we can take that as a message, because he had a right for his feelings and I respect that, but I want you to know that we were brothers. He will be a consultant to me. He will be by my side to lead this party as we go forward.”
Under their agreement, Jones, will take over after Currie’s term expires. It’s unclear whether Democratic State Vice Chairwoman Peg Schaffer, who was re-appointed Saturday, will stay on after Jones takes the helm, though she indicated a willingness to do so.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this has been a journey for me and my good friend John Currie and for a lot of you. For the last year, the journey has been more important than the destination,” Jones said. “The destination is insignificant because the journey has been one filled with lessons learned for me, and values and immense friendship that is second to none.”
The rest of the Currie-Schaffer slate was also re-appointed. Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach will serve as secretary for another term, and veteran party operative Kelly Stewart Maer will remain in her role as treasurer.
Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, a Democratic State committeewoman for Passaic County, nominated Currie’s slate. That nomination was seconded by Paul Bontempo, the longest-serving member of the Democratic State Committee.
Because they were unopposed, Currie’s slate was elected by a voice vote from the 79 DSC members in attendance.
Murphy officiated the ceremony before Currie’s re-election was final.
The governor spoke highly of both Currie and Jones, a shout-out to the latter drawing a 33-second standing ovation from those in the crowd, though such bouts of applause were far from rare during the rest of the event..
“I want to thank LeRoy for his grace, his strength and bringing our party together, and I look forward to working with him now and for years to come,” Murphy said. “And I’m proud to be here, as is LeRoy, supporting John and Peg and their team as we move our party forward in a new decade.”
Currie appointed State Sen. Vin Gopal, Hudson County Chairwoman Amy DeGise, Burlington County State committeewoman Lavonne Johnson, Essex County State committeewoman Alixon Collazos as deputy vice chairs. Steven Goldstein was reappointed to that position
State committee members Kevin O’Connor, Chrissy Buteas, Kelly Ganges and Salaheddin Mustafa were appointed to be sergeants at arms, and Eric Brophy was appointed to be parliamentarian