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New Jersey Democratic State Chairman John Currie. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Can Currie and Schaffer deliver votes against dark-money override?

It’s worth watching to see how legislators from pro-Murphy counties vote yes

By David Wildstein, June 09 2019 12:01 am

Two Democratic county chairs closely allied with Gov. Phil Murphy are facing tests of strength of Monday when legislators are expected to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would force dark-money groups to disclose their donors.

John Currie and Peg Schaffer, the chairs in Passaic and Somerset counties, respectively.  They are Murphy’s candidates for Democratic state chairman and vice chair in a hotly contested race later this year.

There’s not a lot of drama to this vote, as long as the legislative leaders follow through on posting it.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have plenty of votes in their own caucus to override, even without Republicans who are expected to pad the margin of the override.

The question is whether Currie and Schaffer can convince Passaic and Somerset legislators to stick with the governor and not add to the override plurality.

That puts eyes on Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson), Benjie Wimberley (D-Paterson), Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough), and Joe Danielson (D-Franklin).

Sumter is Currie’s protégé, but she is also a primary sponsor of the bill.  She could look foolish if she votes against the override.

Schaffer won’t get Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick), who heads the Democratic ticket in most of Somerset County in the fall.  He’s the Assembly sponsor of the dark-money bill.  Danielson might come from Somerset, but politically he’s part of the Middlesex delegation.

Currie can’t put much pressure on two Essex Democrats who represent part of Passaic County in the Assembly.  Thomas Giblin (D-Montclair), a former state party chairman and a political powerhouse in his own right, will vote exactly how he wants to.  Britnee Timberlake (D-East Orange) is a protégé of Currie’s opponent in the state chairmanship battle, Essex County Democratic chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr.

In the Senate, Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) expressed some reservations about the override in caucus last week.  It’s not immediately clear how she will vote on Monday.

Bergen County is also worth watching.

Murphy ally Louis Stellato remains the Democratic County chairman until the Senate confirms him for a seat on the Sports Authority.  Last year, Stellato handpicked Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus) for a Senate seat, and Clinton Calabrese (D-Cliffside Park), Lisa Swain (D-Fair Lawn) and Christopher Tully (D-Bergenfield) for Assembly seats.

In Hudson County, where Democratic County chair Amy DeGise is allied with Murphy, four Democratic legislators are co-sponsors of the dark-money bill: Brian Stack (D-Union City), Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City), Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne) and Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City).  So are John McKeon (D-West Orange) and Mila Jasey (D-South Orange), both viewed as Murphy-friendly from time to time.

The governor is not meeting with legislators this weekend.  His public calendar says he’s out of state.

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