The race for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2025 has begun, with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Democratic powerbroker George Norcross travelling to Hudson County on Wednesday for a private meeting with legislators.
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Sweeney didn’t come close to making an announcement, but Norcross repeated the same message to most of the people in the room: “Let’s keep the lines of communication open.”
“It’s all about running for governor,” said one lawmaker who was present. “They’re planning early.”
While the gathering was billed as a social meeting with no formal agenda, Norcross told several legislators that he would not back Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop for governor and openly bashed Fulop’s potential candidacy, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Fulop is seeking re-election to a third term as mayor this fall – he has nominal opposition – and has said he is not focused on anything else.
Norcross worked the private room at Hudson & Co, a posh eatery on the Jersey City waterfront, spending time with individual legislators.
The development of a relationship between South Jersey and Hudson County isn’t just about 2025.
Sweeney, the longest-serving legislative leader in New Jersey history, has already secured commitments to keep the post until January 2024. But he likely wants another term after that and run for governor from the Senate Presidency.
Coalitions in New Jersey change frequently and that could involve Hudson down the road.
Four years ago, South Jersey teamed up with Middlesex and Essex and dumped Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. Craig Coughlin replaced him.
Like Sweeney, Coughlin has a commitment for another term.
The six State Assembly members were invited by Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, who was also in attendance.
Democrats will need a gubernatorial candidate in 2025 – either Phil Murphy will be term-limited or the party will be choosing a challenger to Jack Ciattarelli – and Sweeney is considered a likely contender.
Attending the late afternoon meeting were: State Sens. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) and Brian Stack, the mayor of Union City; Assembly Majority Whip Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne), Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City); Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York) and Annette Chaparro (D-Hoboken); and Assemblyman Pedro Mejia (D-Secaucus).
The only Hudson legislator not present was State Sen. Nicholas Sacco. As mayor of North Bergen, Sacco was attending the North Bergen High School graduation ceremonies and had a Board of Commissioners meeting afterwards.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Hudson County Democratic Chair Amy DeGise were not included in the legislators-only event.
The Norcross-Sweeney joint appearance is part of a stepped-up footprint by South Jersey Democrats this year.
The two played a major role in helping Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) capture the Democratic nomination for an open State Senate seat in the 37th district. Johnson defeated Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) by 48 percentage points in the race to succeed retiring Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.
Johnson is viewed as a Sweeney ally in future leadership contests.