Late Nights in Atlantic City: Buono Confirms Her Pick for Chair – Jason O’Donnell


Why Jason O’Donnell? Well, I’ll tell you why Jason O’Donnell. Jason is energetic, young, committed. Jason used to be a field person. [snip] Jason will do anything, will go to any lengths, to do what is right for the Democratic Party. He will unite the Democratic Party, along with Chairman Currie, myself and all of you – from north, to south, east to west.

                                    – Buono, announcing her choice for DSC chair

You can call it the political equivalent of the Friday night news dump, the late-night confirmation of Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell as the pick for state Democratic chair by the woman not every leading Democrat thought even had the right to set party direction by getting her choice.

It’s tradition that the presumptive nominee gets to make this choice; it matters for solidarity, for agreed-on allocation of resources, for speaking as a unified voice behind the standard-bearer. Making this a year not to honor that tradition – when a woman is at the top of the ticket – would have left the state Dems with an awful optics situation (particularly after this) that might have angered the Democrats’ bedrock constituency, women. It absolutely would have riled me.

As the buzz built behind O’Donnell, Christie loyalists in the party began issuing stink bombs in the press. Buono campaign chair Asw Bonnie Watson Coleman floated O’Donnell’s name a week ago, followed by a string of oh-no-she-didn’t sound bites from powerful Democrats not anxious to relinquish the reins. The loudest of these issued from party boss heaven in the north and the south; Senate President Steve Sweeney told Buono O’Donnell would divide the party, county chair Phil Thigpen in cobalt Essex said he’d support Buono’s pick as long as it wasn’t O’Donnell. Speaker Sheila Oliver had very specific concerns (and I hope her concerns were addressed).

Buono’s pick tonight was absolutely defiant. State chairs are rarely acclaimed by everyone. But this decision was made in the face of considerable muscle-flexing, and standing against that is a risk I hope pays off. That said, I don’t know all the stories of those who were willing to put aside difference and accommodate Buono’s determination. I know that there were some. There was some quiet grace shown by some powerful Dems, some generosity, some class.

Speculation at Buono’s late-night dessert reception, where O’Donnell was announced, was that the announcement was held off till way after dinner so that anybody still unhappy wouldn’t even be in the room. And some people did peel off. But there was also a competing event, Democrats 2000’s first big event with new president Jorge Santos (congratulations, Jorge), and not everybody knew O’Donnell would be announced that late.

The party was already in full swing, already loose, as a hoarse Passaic Chair John Currie (rumored in the running early on) announced Buono, who announced O’Donnell. In her remarks, Buono said “this room is the Democratic Party. Among those staying late to welcome the new chair, Loretta Weinberg, Frank Pallone, Watson Coleman, Troy Singleton, Morris Chair Lew Candura, Monmouth Chair Vin Gopal, and incoming Jersey City mayor Steve Fulop.  

Comments (12)

  1. 12mileseastofTrenton
  2. Jeff Gardner

    There was a considerable  increase in buzz Friday morning about Buono’s State chair pick, so I should have realized it was about to get official. Good for her – Jason will be great. (How long until the LG speculation ramps up?)

  3. firstamend07

    This was her first chance to bring everyone together.

    She decided to promote the person who was outfront in a coup attempt to unseat his own Assembly speaker.

    Buono has made her decision. She listened to others and then told them ” it is my way or the highway”. O’Donnell is NOT a unifier. O’Donnel is not a unifying ,compromise choice . O’Donnell is the choice of a defiant ” my way or the highway” candidate who cannot recognize that she needs the WHOLE  Democratic Party to even make this race respectable.

    One thing I do know is that a bird cannot fly with one wing and a Candidate for statewide election cannot win with one “wing ” of the Party.

    Buono was defiant. Good for her. It is her election.She wants to be independentand not be seen as a compromiser? I say good luck.

    I wonder how Speaker Oliver feels this morning? She is a class act. She will say the right things. But getting slapped in public is embarrassing.  

    Talk is cheap. It is now known how Buono plans to be a unifying force in the Democratic Party.

    It was Buono’s job ,as the standard bearer , to unify the Party. I am not sure her campaign slogan of ” my way or the highway” made that happen.

    Good luck to both Buono and O’Donnell !        

  4. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    It will be up to some of those who didn’t get the party chair pick they wanted etc. not to use that disappointment as a reason to make it a fight. It’s pretty simple stuff. We all ought to be able to handle that.  


Leave a Reply to Rosi Efthim Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *