There were a lot of people in at the League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City willing to talk about business and politics Tuesday — especially if it was without attribution, considering the nature of the subjects. Grapevine allowed them that vehicle.
One longtime political observer at the party thrown by Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe says he’s not sure so much success so early for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy is a good thing. Or, at least, one that will hold.
“Thirteen months is a long time for a coronation,” he said. “A lot can happen between now and next November.”
New candidates can emerge. Or old candidates can re-emerge. At least that’s how another longtime player in Trenton saw it.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if (state Senate President Steve) Sweeney got back in,” the insider said.
And Assemblyman John Wisniewski has throw his hat in the ring, too.
“I don’t think anyone should take John for granted,” a source said. “John’s a smart, aggressive legislator. I think we’ll have an aggressive gubernatorial campaign.”
On the Republican side, the insider offered even a bigger surprise. “How about Jared Kushner for governor. I’m not saying I have any inside knowledge that it’s going to happen, but he just watched a novice take the biggest election we have.”
Few thought Gov. Chris Christie’s future is bright. Few actually could come up with any scenario that works. Few feel he wants to return to New Jersey, but said they just don’t know where he can go, now that he’s seemingly an outcast with the team surrounding President-elect Donald Trump.
“I don’t know where he goes,” said one longtime Trenton insider. “People are now mentioning the Secretary of Commerce, but I don’t see how he could get through any confirmation hearing. Or why the Trump team would want him to go through it. It sure seems like they are distancing themselves right now.”
Such a scenario makes some feel the head of the Republican National Committee is a potential landing spot. Another insider said that doesn’t make sense, either.
“With the governor, it’s all about himself,” the insider said. “Remember the speech for Mitt Romney (at the 2012 Republican Convention)? He was supposed to be the setup man for Romney, but all he did was talk about himself. Do you think that is the person they want helping other candidates?”
Response No. 1: “I do not think Donald Trump, based on his business model, (will necessarily help). When he was successful, his properties succeeded. If you were one of the private businesses and did not buy into the casino empire, and you were selling him uniforms and fuel and things like that — his company went through four bankruptcies, and if they didn’t kill you, completely bankrupt you, they certainly wounded you and the end result was you laid off people and reduced salaries. So if he tries to run the country the way he ran his businesses, he may succeed, but the country doesn’t succeed. What he did here in Atlantic City was made a lot of money, but he didn’t reinvest. I could argue it was the governors and mayors that were here that didn’t entice him to do more, but the bottom line is he made the money and didn’t reinvest, and three properties are closed.”
Response No. 2: “His presidency will affect New Jersey in a bad way. The type of uncertainty of the types of programs that affect urban cities, whether or not they are going to allow the back-to-work training programs, that will affect us negatively. Pro-business thus far has not been cooperative in New Jersey, especially in communities of color. It’s an uncertain time, but it’s a harmful time.”
Response No. 3: “He won’t affect business change here. It’s more localized.”
Response No. 4: “I think his presidency is going to be a disaster, because he’s not consistent with his statements. When you hold that position, every word that comes out of your mouth matters. It’s scary. I agree there should be tariffs when goods are being dumped in this country, but there is a balance in trade policy. Hopefully he gets good advisers around him, but so far his picks have not been encouraging.”
Andrew George, Anjalee Khemlani and Tom Bergeron contributed to this report from Atlantic City.