By David Cruz
They came from as far away as Salem in South Jersey and way down in Washington, D.C., all to show their support for the reelection bid of Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. The county executive, who infamously bucked his party to endorse and actively support Republican Chris Christie didn’t seem to be facing any repercussions from that decision at his announcement today.
“No, not at all because the people know, I have a slogan ‘Putting Essex County first’ and that’s what I’ve done. I felt Chris Christie was someone who’s done well for us in Essex County and he helped us out a great deal,” said DiVincenzo.
By almost any measure, DiVincenzo has had an impressive run as county executive. He has stabilized taxes, renovated parks and generally restored a positive image to a county which saw its last two county executives leave office in handcuffs.
“We had such painful experiences in Essex County with challenge after challenge, criminal investigations, the whole thing; to have a guy who’s cleaned it all up, who’s increased our bond rating; who’s created maximum efficiency, lowering the steep incline of taxes. I mean, if you got something good, let’s keep that going,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
But DiVincenzo has had his share of controversy. He was criticized for taking advantage of loopholes that allow him to collect a county pension while serving as county executive and was recently hit with a 13-count complaint by the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, charging that he used campaign funds for personal trips and other expenses.
There was a little intrigue to today’s announcement. DiVincenzo has been talked about as a potential gubernatorial candidate, but he was only one of three in the room today.
“I don’t consider Joe a rival; I consider him a friend, a dear friend, and like I said, I’m here for one reason: to show support,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
“He was supportive of me when nobody was there as a young guy in the Democratic Party. I’m here to express my support wherever I can do that,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.
DiVincenzo thought talk of the next gubernatorial race was premature. “Listen, we shouldn’t even be thinking about that. In politics, every 24 hours it changes.”
Another governor’s race, you may be asking? Didn’t we just have one? Well, yes, but conjecture and positioning are full-time jobs in New Jersey politics and if the current governor decides to run for president, another gubernatorial election would be required. It’s something that the people in this room know all too well.
DiVincenzo is expected to sail through the primary in June and very likely the general election in November. He could be forgiven for perhaps looking at what other political worlds there might be out there to conquer, but, at least for today, he says the world of Essex County is plenty for him.