Gov. Phil Murphy lamented the coming loss of a close legislative ally in Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Bayonne), who on Monday announced he would suspend an off-the-line re-election bid launched after Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis pulled party support for the three-term incumbent.
“Nick and I had a very private and yet soulful exchange this morning. He’s a friend. I think he’s been an outstanding assemblyman, but I have to say Jimmy Davis is a friend, and I think he’s been an outstanding mayor,” Murphy said. “Sometimes these things happen.”
Davis invoked a long-standing deal that allows Hudson County mayors to pick a member of their legislative delegation to put William B. Sampson IV, a 32-year-old crane operator with the Longshoremen’s union, in Chiaravalloti’s place on the ballot.
The incumbent filed petitions to seek re-election off-the-line earlier this month but said Monday that he believed such a bid — one made against a powerful county Democratic organization with a popular governor on its line — would be without benefit and could harm Murphy’s own re-election.
Murphy said he had not met Sampson, though he appeared to acknowledge the imminence of his victory in the heavily Democratic 31st district.
“I have not met his designated successor,” Murphy said. “I say successor — obviously, he has to win some elections, but I’ve not yet met him and I look forward to.”
Davis has not publicly stated his reasons for tossing Chiaravalloti, who bemoaned the rule despite its role in securing his own legislative seat in 2015’s races, when Davis backed the Chiaravalloti over Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-Bayonne), who was similarly dumped from the party line.
The more recent intraparty tiff drew little joy from the governor.
“You’ve got two folks you have a high regard for and you just wish and hope that they can find common ground, and they were not able to,” Murphy said. “But I think he’s been an outstanding assemblyman, and I said to him no matter what walks of life he or I may stumble through in the years ahead, I hope that we can stay close and I thank him for his service.”
He’ll also be missed by the leader of his caucus.
“During his time in office, Assemblyman Chiaravalloti has been a tireless and dedicated advocate not only for his constituents in the 31st Legislative District, but for all of New Jersey’s nine million residents,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said. “As part of my Leadership team, I have relied upon Nicholas for his guidance, counsel and political acumen. I’m fortunate to have had the unique opportunity to work closely with him. Nicholas has become a friend and I will continue to seek out his advice through the remainder of his term.”
This article was updated with comment from Coughlin at 4:52 p.m.