Was The Recent News 4 I-Team Report On North Bergen Mayor And State Senator Nick Sacco Another Sweeney-Sacco Skirmish?

 State Senator/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco

State Senator/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco

Generally speaking, The Bob & Steve Show doesn’t cover North Jersey politics, but the most recent NBC New York report on North Bergen Mayor and state Senator Nick Sacco cannot be ignored.

For some background, the last time this blog mentioned Sacco was after the release of Republican congressional candidate Seth Grossman’s first television ad against Democrat Jeff Van Drew. In that post I wrote that there was “grumbling in some circles within the Democratic party are that North Bergen Mayor, state Senator and Hudson County political boss Nick Sacco is somehow involved in this ad.”

In that piece I provided a little history to bring South Jerseyans up to speed as to why some Democrats thought there was a link to Sacco in that ad writing, For South Jerseyans who pay little attention to North Jersey politics you need to understand Sacco and Sweeney aren’t exactly best friends. The Jersey Journal’s Agustin “Augie” Torres put it into perspective in a column back in June. Torres wrote, in part (and misspelled Wainstein):

Oh yeah, and should the younger DeGise suffer a slaughter, the elder will still have to run - to continue depleting resources that may otherwise be used in the North Bergen May election against the incumbent administration.

Sources say money will not be a problem when it comes to the North Bergen election. South Jersey Democrats - read that as insurance guy George Norcross and Senate President Steve Sweeney -- so despise Sacco that you can expect to see a super Political Action Committee (PAC) pop up with $1 million available just to make certain there's a new mayor in North Bergen, say sources.

Larry Weinstein 's school board race went poorly but he still aspires to replace Sacco in Township Hall. You can't always translate school political success to a municipal race. In the last municipal election Weinstein received 5,000 votes. How much of an impact was that vote total? Ask yourself what would be Stack's reaction if he gave up 5,000 votes? It would be seismic.

In the present atmosphere it would not be difficult to come up with another 2,000 votes or more in anti-Sacco votes.

Of course, those of you who pay little attention to North Jersey politics need another piece of the puzzle. That piece of the puzzle is that the Grossman campaign’s ad was put together by political strategist and pollster Rick Shaftan. Shaftan is known for his work with Republicans, but he also happens to be North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco’s guy. Shaftan is Sacco's pollster, media buyer, and produces videos highlighting the North Bergen DPW's snow removal efforts.

With that background out of the way, take another look at the most recent News 4 I-Team report. In the report the News 4 I-Team makes clear:

The I-Team did a search for all political donations in New Jersey where the contributor reported being a teacher or working for any board of education in the state. Since 2010, there are a total of 11,000 contributions statewide. More than 6,000 of those went just to the political committee closely linked to Sacco. That is more than half of all individual education-related donations in the state.

North Bergen ranks 23rd in population in the state. Yet over that same nine-year time period, we found 317 individual donations in New Jersey’s three largest cities – Newark, Jersey City and Paterson – compared to more than 6,000 in North Bergen alone.

When the head of the state teacher’s union was showed this data, she said it is a big concern.

"Our students' education is too important to play politics with," Donna M. Chiera, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, said in a statement to News 4. "Educators… should not be coerced to donating to campaigns with the promise of favor or threat of retaliation."

Chiera called for "employment based on qualifications, credentials and merit rather than nepotism, cronyism or donations to political candidates."

Considering, that in North Bergen the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is the union of choice for educators, it makes sense that’s the union News 4 would go to for comment, but do not forget the AFT endorsed Sweeney for re-election when the NJEA opposed him..

And, let’s not forget a Star-Ledger column from back when the NJEA was trying to take Sweeney out. That column ended with:

Murphy's campaign won't comment, but the rest of the Legislature is watching. Some worry that this will create a rift between Murphy and Democrats allied with Sweeney and Norcross, one that could kneecap Murphy's agenda. Others are hoping for just such a rift, saying Norcross and his crew need to be brought down a peg after steering the party towards the center during the Christie years.

My guess is the NJEA is making an enormous mistake, that Sweeney will win, and that Murphy will emerge weakened as legislators see that he refused to throw a fellow Democrat a life-preserver in his hour of need.

There’s that and back when Grossman’s first TV ad launched I wrote, “One source close to the Governor told me Phil Murphy is happy with the ad because he feels it hurts Sweeney.”

So, I typed a lot of words for what in a nutshell is: Sweeney and Murphy aren’t best friends. Sacco and Murphy are allies. In June a Jersey Journal columnist outed Sweeney as being friendly with Wainstein, a challenger to Sacco for mayor. In October Democrats considered the possibility that a Republican campaign ad was being used by Democrats to weaken Sweeney. All this adds up to one question: Was the News 4 piece another Sweeney-Sacco skirmish?

Things like this are part of what makes New Jersey politics fun to watch. And, since there is a South Jersey connection to the upcoming May election for mayor in North Bergen we will keep watching.