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Sweeney Victory Tour Underscores Status as Gubernatorial Frontrunner

“Nobody wants to cut taxes more than I do,” Sweeney said. “That was my proposal, not Christie’s. But we’re not going to do it unless the revenue is there to pay for it.”

Sweeney has an added incentive to work on a bipartisan basis with Christie because “if the governor moves up to run for president, that creates an opportunity for Steve Sweeney to replace him,” Douglas said “He can help Chris Christie achieve his goals and achieve his own at the same time. It’s the old Hudson County rule about promoting someone to create more room for yourself.”

A Sweeney run for governor would provide an opportunity for yet another reshuffling of the legislative leadership that would create opportunities for talented legislators who have been waiting in the wings. Sweeney would undoubtedly be succeeded by a North Jersey Democrat, while Greenwald, who stayed in the No. 2 Assembly leadership spot to allow Prieto to move up, would finally have his chance at the speakership.

Sweeney has been feuding with Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean (R-Union) and hoped he would face a challenge from within the GOP after predicting he would pick up the five Senate seats he needed to become Senate president, but failing to gain a single one.

However, an aide handed Sweeney a cell phone during yesterday’s lunch with an attachment showing him that Kean had a letter of support signed by 11 out of 15 of his GOP Senate colleagues. Sweeney shrugged as he read it.

Christie yesterday attributed his party’s failure to pick up more than two seats in the Assembly -- one of which was due to a scandal in which Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Cumberland) tried to pull rank on a state trooper over a traffic stop -- to a 2011 redistricting map that favored Democrats and the infusion of more than $25 million in outside money to preserve Democratic legislative seats.

Christie will be off campaigning in other states frequently next year as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. It will provide him with an opportunity to reinforce his message that effective bipartisanship in governing can attract new votes for Republican candidates.

At the same time, he can assure future primary voters that he opposes abortion, vetoed gay marriage, blocked $300 million in federal and state aid for Planned Parenthood, vetoed legislation to ban a popular semiautomatic weapon, refused to start a state exchange to sign up new users for Obamacare, and pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Yesterday, however, Christie stuck closer to home. He chose a Union City public school for his first day-after event, where he was introduced by Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson), the Union City mayor who, along with DiVincenzo, was Christie’s staunchest Democratic supporter. Whether Stack or any of the other 50 Democratic elected officials who formally endorsed Christie will face any future party retribution is an open question.

On Election Night, Buono attacked unnamed Democratic party bosses for abandoning her campaign. Sweeney endorsed Buono and raised money for her, despite their past clashes. To Sweeney, though, one thing is certain: “We’re going to need to be united next time.”

Asked whether he planned to be that unifying candidate, Sweeney simply smiled.

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