Two very interesting articles about redistricting were posted on PolitickerNJ.com today that could provide anyone interested in the redistricting process with some insight into the developing drama as Republicans appear united in their efforts to reclaim majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate that have been out of their grasp for the last decade against Democratic adversaries who seem to be anything but that.
After a year that has seen the Democrats in Trenton capitulate to our state’s Republican Governor on issue after issue, thanks primarily to overly cozy relations between the Governor and acolytes of Steve Adubato and George Norcross, the two most powerful Democratic Party bosses in the state, the unholy alliance between Adubato and Norcross seems to be fraying at the most dangerous possible time for all Democrats, when division could result in a legislative district map that could guarantee Republican dominance in the state for most if not all of the next decade the way that the last map, conceived by then-Senate Minority Leader, Richard Codey, who would go on to become Senate President and Acting Governor before being unceremoniously ousted from his leadership position in a coup, led by his fiercest adversaries, Adubato and Norcross and their acolytes, enabled the Democrats in Trenton to enjoy the majorities that they have held and squandered for the last decade.
One article presents the players for each team that will go head-to-head in the weeks and months to come to either draw competing (most likely) or cooperating (highly unlikely) legislative district maps that will determine the playing fields on which the next decade’s worth of legislative elections will be held and infers about the strategy that could lead to the end of Codey’s political career.
The other discusses potential fractures in the Democratic ranks in general and between Adubato and Norcross in particular that could spell doom for the Democratic majorities in Trenton once and for all.
Heading into a redistricting year, players for both teams now stand on the giant chess board in the attack position since New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Jay Webber moments ago announced the GOP members of the 2011 Legislative Apportionment Commission.
The five Republican members Webber appointed to his delegation are Webber himself, who will serve as chairman; Republican State Committeewoman Irene Kim Asbury, of Jersey City, who will serve as the delegation’s Vice-Chair; Senator Kevin O’Toole of Cedar Grove; Ocean County Republican Chairman George R. Gilmore, of Toms River; and Republican National Committeeman Bill Palatucci, of Westfield.
While NJRSC Chairman Webber may chair the Republican delegation, it is clear by the presence of close confidants of Governor Christie, Asbury and Palatucci, that he intends to be in control of the Republican redistricting efforts. Whether this means that he intends to lead an all-out battle for the most Republican-friendly legislative district map OR (as I have postulated in the past) that he might be willing to sell out his Republican allies in Trenton in a backroom deal with Adubato and/or Norcross that would enable him to take credit on the national stage for a more Republican-friendly congressional map remains to be seen.
The article also discusses the primary Republican goal of creating a Republican-friendly legislative map that would take a Democratic district away from Essex County and add a Republican district in Ocean County.
Webber’s selection of Gilmore came as no surprise to party insiders, who anticipate a Republican play for greater representation in Ocean County at the expense of Essex, where former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) has muscled up with a warchest totaling over $2 million in the event Republicans exact a tradeoff and attempt to make him the sacrificial lamb by lumping him in Morris County and downsizing a Democratic senator.
And if there are truly fractures developing between Adubato and Norcross, that plan could also include the repacking of the two Newark-based legislative districts that Codey was able to unpack when he created the current legislative district map, which could result in Senator Ron Rice Sr. and his Assemblymates in the 28th going head-to-head with Adubato’s people in the 29th.
In late October, DiVincenzo pulled the rug out on the Dems arbitration reform bill – backed by Oliver, one of his own – because it didn’t have the two percent hard cap on salary arbitration that Gov. Chris Christie wanted.
That left South Jersey, state Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), and the rest of Team Norcross none too pleased.
So when the informal, yet important “unofficial” redistricting meeting came along soon after the arbitration debacle, South Jersey flexed its muscles on Essex.
If Assembly Speaker Oliver, non-voting add-on member, DiVincenzo, and his chief of staff, who is supposed to serve as the delegation’s chief of staff can be frozen out of informal, “unofficial” meetings, is it possible that they might be frozen out of the redistricting process altogether?
While the process is set up so that five Democrats can work together to draw their map and five Republicans can work together to draw their map and the State Supreme Court-appointed independent member of the commission can choose between them, it is possible that such a contest may never occur.
If the Republicans are as united as they seem to be and the Democrats are as dysfunctional as they always are, the only question is which Democrat will betray the others and vote for a Republican-friendly map that serves their own personal agenda.
The Democrats’ redistricting team is comprised of party chairman and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union), and former Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz- Perez.
The only ones out of this group who I would trust as far as I could throw them are NJDSC Chairman Wisniewski and Assembly Majority Leader Cryan. All it would take is for Adubato’s lackey, Assembly Speaker Oliver, former Assemblywoman Cruz-Perez, who has been bought and paid for by the Norcross machine, or Senator Sarlo, who is free to sell out to the highest bidder now that his former sugar daddy, Bossman Joe Ferriero, is no longer a major player, to vote with the Republicans and Republican majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate are only an election away.