Political ambition and succession planning for a pair of octogenarian lawmakers is part of the backdrop in the Democratic primary for mayor of Englewood.
First, a story: there was once a Rhode Island politician named Theodore Green, who was 69-years-old when he first won election to the U.S. Senate. Because of his age, a generation of ambitious politicos planned their careers around the likelihood that Green would soon retire. Green outlasted most of them, spending 24 years in the Senate before he finally retired at age 93.
Some insiders believe Michael Wildes is seeking a return to the office he won in 2003 and 2010 to set up a run for Congress when 81-year-old Democrat Bill Pascrell eventually retires. The 9th district favors Bergen County, although Pascrell ousted fellow incumbent (and former Englewood mayor) Steve Rothman in the redistricting-caused 2012 Democratic primary. The conventional wisdom is that Wildes would have a better chance to score the backing of the Bergen County Democratic organization when Pascrell leaves if he’s the sitting mayor. He also has a federal campaign account with more than $700,000 parked in it.
The other player is Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Gordon Johnson, who endorsed Wildes on Friday despite some prior friction between the two – and even though Wildes’ opponent, Englewood Democratic Municipal Chairman Phil Meisner once served as Johnson’s legislative director.
Johnson, 68, has long been eyeing the State Senate seat of Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who turned 83 this winter. Johnson reportedly believes that Meisner would help Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle move up to the Senate if the seat ever opens; Meisner served as Huttle’s chief of staff and her husband, outgoing mayor Frank Huttle, has endorsed Meisner as his successor.
The thing about Pascrell and Weinberg is that neither is planning to retire anytime soon. Sources close to both say they love their jobs and will keep going for as long as they are able. Wildes could do two more terms as mayor and still have Pascrell as his congressman. Many insiders believe Weinberg will outlast Johnson.
The other issue at hand is redistricting. There are no guarantees that Englewood will remain in the 9th congressional district, especially since Rep. Josh Gottheimer would like to shed some o the Republican areas in the western part of his district and pick up more Democratic towns in Bergen County. It’s unlikely that Teaneck (where Weinberg lives) and Englewood will be split up after the 2020 census, but you never know.
Eleven years after losing a State Senate primary to Steve Oroho, former seven-term Assemblyman Guy Gregg is mounting a political comeback as a candidate for sergeant-at-arms of the Morris County Republican Committee. Becoming sergeant-at-arms won’t be a cakewalk for the 68-year-old ex-Marine: he faces a challenge from George Dredden, the chief of staff to Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce and a former executive director of the National Black Republican Council of New Jersey. Gregg is running on a ticket with county chairman candidate Ronald DeFilippis, while Dredden is allied with Rob Zwigard’s slate.
The lives of Gregg and Dredden intersected once before. Gregg was a candidate for the Republican nomination for United States Senator in 2002 against front-runner Essex County Executive Jim Treffinger; Dredden was the Treffinger’s deputy county administrator. Gregg announced on filing day that he was withdrawing from the race and endorsing Treffinger. Four days later, the FBI raided Treffinger’s Newark office – and four days after that, Treffinger dropped out. Six years later, Dredden ran the State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. Pennacchio is slated to become executive director of the Morris GOP if DeFilippis wins.
Gregg, now the Washington Township Republican Municipal Chairman, had initially announced in 2007 that he would challenge incumbent State Sen. Robert Littell in the Republican primary. Littell, who had spent 40 years in the Legislature, decided to retire and endorsed Oroho, a family friend and a Sussex County Freeholder. Oroho beat him by a 51%-49% margin.
No word yet on Greg’s platform for his sergeant-at-arms campaign, although the traditional role of keeping order during meetings might be a challenge for anyone in dysfunctional world of Morris County Republican politics.
In the campaign for 58 contested Democratic County Committee seats in West New York, Union City mayor Brian Stack assembled an army of more than 400 volunteers today to canvas all 29 districts in the town. Stack’s slate of candidates has the backing of mayor Felix Roque and is running off the line against a slate endorsed by Rep. Albio Sires and commissioner Cosmo Cirillo. Stack is counting on winning at least 20 county committee seats in West New York as he approaches his June 12 campaign for county chairman. To a certain extent, the 2018 county committee contest is also viewed as a precursor to the May 2019 West New York municipal elections, where Cirillo is expected to challenge Roque for mayor.