Contested statewide Democratic primary elections do not happen very often here in New Jersey. Since I started paying close attention to New Jersey politics in 1997, there have only been four seriously contested statewide Democratic primary elections. In 1997, then-Woodbridge Mayor Jim McGreevey defeated Congressman Rob Andrews and Morris County Prosecutor Michael Murphy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. In 2000, Jon Corzine bought more votes than his senatorial opponent, former Governor Jim Florio, was able to earn. In February 2008, Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama in the Presidential primary election. In June of that year, Andrews lost his second statewide primary election when he challenged the incumbent U.S. Senator, Frank Lautenberg.
It appears as if we will have a hotly contested Democratic gubernatorial primary election in 2013. The most likely candidates at the moment are State Senators Barbara Buono, Dick Codey, and Steve Sweeney. It is possible that other candidates could come out of the woodwork over the next year or so, but for the sake of this discussion, the names are less important than the questions that the current political dynamic in the state, which has Democratic Party bosses, including but not limited to Steve Adubato and George Norcross, closely aligned with Republican Governor Chris Christie, raises about how serious these bosses are about defeating Christie.
These bosses and their acolytes in the State legislature have enabled Christie to get more of his agenda passed than our last Democratic Governor, Corzine, and have never even come close to a government shutdown like the one which occurred as a result of the conflict between Corzine and then-Assembly Speaker, Joe Roberts, a Norcross minion, over whether the state sales tax should be increased, and if so, how the additional revenue should be spent. So it stands to reason that Adubato, Norcross et al would probably prefer to have one of their own (Steve Sweeney being the most likely candidate, but Assemblyman Louis Greenwald is another possibility) as Governor than Christie, but in lieu of that, it would not be safe to assume that they would prefer someone else, like Buono or Codey, over Christie.
So I reiterate my original question, which is also the title of this diary. What will happen if Steve Sweeney does not win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2013? For some time now, I have believed that Adubato, Norcross, et al suppressed the vote for Corzine in their counties, throwing the 2009 election to their soon-to-be ally, Christie. It is possible, if not likely that they will do the same thing in 2013 if Buono or Codey or someone else from outside of the Adubato-Norcross-Christie axis of evil wins the Democratic nomination.
However, under these circumstances, I think that it is entirely possible that they could go even further to ensure that Christie wins re-election in 2013. Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but to the best of my knowledge, in the same way that county Democratic organizations are free to determine the manner in which they award the party line on the primary election ballot, they are also free to decline to place the winner of the statewide primary election on the general election ballot with their slate of candidates.
Is there anything in the state constitution or state law that requires a county party organization to place the winner of the statewide primary election on the general election ballot with their slate of candidates? Assuming for the sake of this discussion that either Buono or Codey win the gubernatorial primary election, is it possible that Camden, Essex, and Hudson Counties could refuse to place her/him on their line, and instead, left her him to the vagaries of the same ballot position lottery that NJ Weedman and other independent candidates are subjected? Could they leave the gubernatorial position on their line blank or possibly fill it with someone else, like Sweeney, which would really confuse the voters in these counties.
If Sweeney gets the party line in these counties for the 2013 gubernatorial primary election, it is very likely that he will get the most votes in each of them, allowing them to make the argument that he won the right to be the Democratic nominee on the ballot in these counties. Obviously, this is a nonsensical argument, based on how our partisan political system has operated to date, but never before has there been a majority party in a state legislature whose leadership has so completely and totally gone against the traditions and values of that party and aligned themselves with an opposition Governor to the degree that Adubato/Oliver and Norcross/Sweeney have, so considering what has taken place over the last two years and what I expect will happen over the next two, I don’t think that Democrats can afford to take anything for granted, including the integrity of our elections.
That said, I think that it is still probably more likely that the position could be left vacant in these counties or that Buono or Codey could be placed on the line and still have her/his vote be suppressed as it had been for Corzine. Another scenario could be that Christie could remove Kim Guadagno as his running mate and offer the LG position on his ticket to Sweeney, who would otherwise be unemployed unless he pulls the same kind of switcheroo that Andrews did in 2008, which enabled him to run for re-election to his Congressional seat, even though he did not run for re-election during the primary election, creating the impression of a unity ticket.
Would there be any consequences to Adubato, Norcross et al doing something as overtly anti-democratic (as opposed to everything that is as covertly anti-democratic as what they do on a daily basis) as any of the scenarios that I have proposed in this diary? My answer to this question is possibly yes, but probably not. If the 2013 legislative elections produce the same results as the 2011 elections, Camden, Essex, and Hudson Counties have 24 Democratic State Assembly seats and 12 Democratic State Senate seats locked up amongst them. That is exactly 50% of the Democratic caucus in both houses. It would not be hard to find one more Assemblyperson (Gary Schaer) or Senator (Paul Sarlo) to go along with them. They would most likely have the support of 32 Republican State Assemblypersons and 16 Republican State Senators as well.
If Christie were to win re-election under this realigned power structure, the Adubato-Norcross-Christie axis of evil would retain all or most of its power for the four years of his second term. After that, it is possible that competing ambitions would get the best of both the Democratic and Republican establishments, fracturing their symbiotic relationship, but it is as or more likely that they will find a way to maintain their evil empire as they know that they have more power with it than without it, particularly if Christie is able to use it as a springboard to the Republican Presidential nomination and the Presidency in 2016. This would enable LG Sweeney to serve the remainder of Christie’s term and run for his own full term in 2017. The big question at that point would be whether he does it as a Democrat or a Republican.
It is entirely possible that this diary could be complete and total political science fiction with absolutely no bearing in reality. Hopefully, someone who reads this will be able to cite something from either the state constitution or state law that makes any of these scenarios an impossibility. Or better yet, maybe Norcross wants Greenwald or Sweeney to be Governor more than he wants to be able to make backroom deals with Christie so he will take their leashes off of them for the next two years and the Democrats in Trenton will finally start to stand up for Democratic values. However, I think that our best hope lies in the constitution or the law, because otherwise, I think that anything that my imagination can conjure pales in comparison to what Adubto, Norcross, and Christie might actually do if there was nothing standing in their way.
How do we stand in their way? By not only organizing behind either Barbara Buono or Dick Codey (my feeling is that Sweeney most likely wins a three-way race, but loses a two-way race), but also organizing primary challenges against each and every Democratic legislator running for re-election in 2013 who is likely to stand with Adubato, Norcross, and Christie as they bring about an end to the democratic process in our state once and for all.