Home>Governor>Top Dems put feuds aside for Lagana dinner

From left, Gov. Phil Murphy, State Sen. Joe Lagana and Senate President Steve Sweeney at Lagana's annual Columbus Day Beefsteak.

Top Dems put feuds aside for Lagana dinner

Murphy, Sweeney, Coughlin make rare appearance under the same roof

By Nikita Biryukov, October 15 2019 12:29 am

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Some of the state’s top Democrats put their feuds aside to attend State Sen. Joe Lagana’s annual Columbus Day beefsteak Monday night.

The first-term senator got Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin under one roof despite feuds between the legislative leaders and the governor that have marked much of Murphy’s first 20 months in office.

“He’s a rising star,” Murphy told the crowd of more than 350. “Look at him, he brought Murphy, Sweeney and Coughlin together in one room for crying out loud.”

Those three weren’t the only feuding Democrats to put their differences aside for a night at The Brownstone in Paterson.

Democratic State Chair John Currie and Essex County Democratic Chairman LeRoy Jones, who’s set to challenge Currie for control of the state party later this year, shared a table near the front.

At one point, as Currie returned to the table after giving a speech, the two hugged.

The attendance reinforces Lagana’s image as a Democrat trusted by Democrats.

Earlier this year, Lagana was the only Democrat trusted to hold onto then-Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato’s resignation letter.

Stellato, who attended Monday’s event, was set to be confirmed to be a commissioner of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, but that confirmation was contingent upon his resignation as head of the BCDO.

The chairman and the senate president agreed to the terms but were caught in a prisoner’s dilemma.

Sweeney wanted Stellato to resign first. Stellato wanted to be confirmed first.

Both were afraid of a double cross, and both trusted Lagana to hold onto the letter and hand it over once the time came.

Not all — or most, for that matter — of the Democrats in the room Monday were feuding. Lagana’s Assembly running mates Lisa Swain and Christopher Tully were a given.

Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano, his Vice Chairwoman Balpreet Grewal-Virk, Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, Rep Josh Gottheimer and State Democratic Vice Chairwoman Peg Schaffer reinforced the party’s support for Lagana.

The dozens of local mayors and council people in the room amplified the effect.

One thing was clear: Lagana’s on the up, not on the outs.

“To all of you here are tonight, thank you so much for your hard work and your dedication,” Lagana said.

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