State Democrats continue to spar in Atlantic City

The Democrats’ spat continued in Atlantic City against a backdrop of public events, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus on the boardwalk.

He’s in town, but Gov. Phil Murphy canceled plans to speak at the event, the university press release noted with a sniff of miff. A large crowd of South Jersey political luminaries gathered to mark the event, and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald minced no words.

“I know our governor today is in Atlantic City. I hope he hears your cheers. I hope he finds his way to walk down this magnificent boardwalk and stumble upon what is happening here today,” said Lou Greenwald.

Greenwald joined Senate President Steve Sweeney, who was welcomed effusively by university officials. He claimed there’s no beef with Murphy.

“I wish he was here, and if they had invited me to the other events, since I’m here, I would’ve went. But again, my feelings don’t get hurt,” Sweeney said. “I don’t consider it a grudge. I like Phil personally, and I think he’d say the same. When we disagree, we’re going to disagree. When we agree, we’re going to agree and we’re going to work together. We’re working very hard on marijuana right now. And after marijuana, we’re going to work on the minimum wage bill. We’ve got a lot to do.”

But Sweeney freely admits he’s still irked by State Democratic Party Chairman John Currie’s taking the governor’s side against the Legislature during bitter budget battles this spring.

“I just think John has shown a great deal of disrespect to the Legislature. And, myself as a Democrat, as Democrats we are allowed to disagree. And you’re not supposed to, as the leader of the party, choose one side over the other,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney pointedly will not join Murphy Thursday night at the party’s annual Democratic State Committee convention in Atlantic City. Neither will Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Greenwald and Senator Loretta Weinberg pleaded prior engagements, but they were also no-shows.

NJTV News asked Murphy, who was down the street for a press conference, how he could rally the party faithful without top Democrats in attendance.

“We have a pretty darn unified party. I’ll let them, obviously, speak for themselves. As I’ve said before, there’s a lot of noise, but the substance is we have an overwhelming agreement on what it means to be a Democrat and where we want to take this party in this state,” he said. “You’re going to see a very fired-up, passionate and united Democratic party.”

Murphy says the party’s got a lot to do with midterms drawing close. He’ll be in Atlantic City Thursday night with Sen. Cory Booker, but without the top Democrats from the Legislature.