Dispatches from a Wild Week in NJ Politics
The 2021 election is over, the next big round of elections won’t be held for another four months, and the state legislature has only just begun to fast-track its 2022-23 session — and yet the week has still been busy in New Jersey politics. . Here are the most notable stories from this week, from figurative political wars to literal political murders.
Twisted assistant validates Jersey’s worst stereotypes
On Tuesday, US Attorney Philip Sellinger announced that longtime Democratic legislative aide Sean Caddle admitted to hiring two men to murder a former associateJersey City politician Michael Galdieri in May 2014. The two men Caddle hired, Bomani Africa and George Bratsenisstabbed Galdieri and burned down his house in a case that went unsolved for years.
The shopping cart is is currently cooperating with the FBI in an ongoing sting operation, and has been free from house arrest since confessing to the murder in September last year.
To make an already shocking story even crazier, there’s can be a link on the death of John and Joyce Sheridan, a long-standing mystery in New Jersey. The couple, who had good connections in Republican circles in the state, were found stabbed to death in their partially burned home in September 2014 – and Bratsenis was not arrested with a knife until a day later. Mark Sheridan, one of the Sheridans’ sons, has asked Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck and Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson to re-examine the case.
Sweeney loses the only job he’s ever really been interested in
Former Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) lost his Senate seat last November, and with it his position as one of the most powerful legislative leaders in New Jersey history, but this week , State Democratic Party Chairman LeRoy Jones Jr. took one more thing: his place in the Legislative Distribution Commission.
Jones reportedly feared that Sweeney, who was the only South Jersey Democrat on the commission, was making a private deal with Republicans for his own benefit. The concerns may not have been unfounded, given that two Sweeney-affiliated commissioners of the Congressional Redistricting Commission had tried to weaken Rep. Mikie Sherrill’s (D-Montclair) district to make her less viable. as a statewide candidate.
Sweeney’s ousting served as punishment for a man who survived him in the Senate: State Senator and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland). In 2010, shortly after Sweeney defeated Codey for Senate Speaker, Sweeney withdrew Codey’s choice for the Congressional Redistricting Committee, arguing that he should have a say in the composition of the committee.
Jones’ replacement for Sweeney, Pinelands Commission President Laura Matos is the commission’s first Hispanic member. But Sweeney already has filed a complaint arguing that Jones never had the authority to remove him from the commission in the first place.
The Princeton Gerrymandering project is aptly named
Despite its name, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project is theoretically anti-gerrymandering – but a look closely to the group’s role in the congressional redistricting process cast doubt on that.
The commission’s tie-breaker, former state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, used the Princeton group as his independent advisers during his consultations with the Democratic and Republican redistricting commissioners last month. But the advisers, led by neuroscience professor Sam Wang, reportedly gave advice and inside information to Democrats that they did not give to Republicans, and refused to share the data that led them to conclude that the map Democrat was the best option.
Wallace took their advice, and the Democrat card is now law, pending a trial in progress Republicans. Now, Wang and his team will advise Legislative Allocation Commission tiebreaker Philip Carchman, who may want to keep an eye out for bias toward a certain party.
Kim receives a new challenge from Ian Smith, Owner of the Atilis gym
South Jersey gym owner Ian Smith, who came to prominence for refusing to comply with Governor Phil Murphy’s mandates at the start of the pandemic, launched his campaign in Congress today against Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown).
Smith’s Atilis Gym in Bellmawr has been a flashpoint for controversy since the pandemic began; Smith faced nearly $1 million in legal fees for refusing to comply with mask mandates and business closures, and began offering free gym memberships to anyone who refuses to get vaccinated. But his right-wing positions might not fly in the 3rd arrondissement, which has been redesigned to be a staunchly Democratic constituency.
My enemy’s friend is… my friend?
Former state senator Bob Andrzejczak (D-Middle), a close ally of party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), join the administration of President Joe Biden this week as State Director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Services Agency.
In 2019, while in the fight of his political life against Republican Michael Testa, Andrzejczak said he was open to vote for President Donald Trump next year. Andrzejczak lost anyway and his former running mate Van Drew defected to the Republican Party in December.
Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), the New Jersey House delegation’s top fundraiser, raised $1.1 million last quarter, putting its overall warchest at a terrifying $12 million. Tom Kean, Jr., a Republican running against Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes), raised $1.15 million.
As expected, the commission tasked with redrawing the five county commission districts of Atlantic County hit a dead end at its first meeting, and will now begin the process of finding a fifth tiebreaker.
With the primary season ramping up, Passaic County Republicans became the first of 42 county parties in the state to reward their party linegiving it to Frank Pallotta in the 5th District, Billy Prempeh in the 9th Congressional District, and Paul DeGroot in the 11th District
Gloucester County Commissioner Dan Christy, a Democrat, has resigned from his seat. Christy was re-elected this fall, so whoever picks county Democrats to replace him will immediately have to run for a full term in the competitive county.