This is a critical development in the fight for fair aid because the Assembly Speaker, by virtue of controlling the legislative calendar, has a de facto veto over any bill, including one that a majority of the chamber and the majority of his caucus want. Prieto, notoriously, has used his power to protect Jersey City from any cuts, even at the expense of the state as a whole and his own District 32.
Prieto has counterdeclared that he is "strongly confident that [he] will have the support of a majority of the Assembly Democratic caucus for another term as Speaker," he has released no list of commitments and thus he is likely bluffing.
So far, these are the Democrats who are committed to supporting Craig Coughlin for Assembly Speaker:
Bob Andrzejczak (D-1)
Arthur Barclay (D-5)
Daniel R. Benson (D- 14)
John J. Burzichelli (D-3)
Herb Conaway Jr. M.D. (D-7)
Craig J. Coughlin (D-19)
Joseph Danielsen (D-17)
Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-14)
Joann Downey (D-11)
Joseph V. Egan (D-17)
Jerry Green (D-22)
Louis D. Greenwald (D-6)
Eric Houghtaling (D-11)
Gordon M. Johnson (D-37)
Patricia Egan Jones (D-5)
Rob Karabinchak (D-18)
James Kennedy (D-22)
Pamela R. Lampitt (D-6)
R. Bruce Land (D-1)
Yvonne Lopez (D-19) (candidate)
Vincent Mazzeo (D-2)
Paul D. Moriarty (D-4)
Gabriela Mosquera (D-4)
Carol Murphy (D-7) (candidate)
Nancy Pinkin (D-18)
Annette Quijano (D-20)
Adam Taliaferro (D-3)
Andrew Zwicker (D-16)
Although all but one of the pro-Coughlin Assemblymembers are from South and Central Jersey and there are undeniable geographic factors at work here, some of the reporting on the leadership election indicates that Prieto's opposition to state aid reform is a factor in the movement against him.
A South Jersey Democrat who spoke on the condition of anonymity said it was illogical that Prieto was “holding up legislation on school funding reform that benefits 85 percent of the districts”But it's fascinating to see who ISN'T on this list.
We can't be 100% sure that everyone who isn't on the list is for Prieto so much as neutral, undecided, or intimidated, but here are the Assembly Democrats who aren't already for Coughlin.
- Sheila Oliver and Thomas Giblin, District 34, Clifton, Montclair, Orange, and East Orange. Since East Orange is overaided by $25 million and has extreme municipal taxes, this is somewhat understandable, but it means that Oliver and Giblin aren't following through on their promises to do everything they can for Clifton.
Both Oliver and Giblin voted against SFRA in 2008.
- Shavonda Sumter, Benjie E. Wimberly, District 35, Elmwood Park, Garfield, Haledon, North Haledon,Paterson, Prospect Park.
All school districts are underaided in District 35. Manchester Regional, which consists of Haledon, North Haledon, and Prospect Park, is one of New Jersey's five most underaided districts in dollars-per-student.
Sumter and Wimberly are obsessed with Paterson's aid deficit, even though the districts around Paterson are much more underaided.
Sumter and Wimberly have repeatedly gotten the legislature to earmark additional money for Paterson. When Prieto announced his vague $100 million appropriation for K-12 aid, Paterson was the only district Prieto mentioned specifically.
- Mila Jasey & John McKeon, District 27, have ignored South Orange-Maplewood's BOE resolutions, phone calls, and emails, plus more sporadic activism from West Orange. All other districts in District 27 are underaided as well.
Jasey and McKeon were both against SFRA in the first place in 2008, even though District 27 is suburban.
District 27's State Senator is Dick Codey, who is still bitter at Steve Sweeney because Sweeney defeated him to become Senate President in 2010.
- Tim Eustace & Joseph Lagana, District 38 (Bergenfield, Fair Lawn, Glen Rock, Hasbrouck Heights, Hawthorne, Lodi, Maywood, New Milford, Oradell, Paramus, River Edge,Rochelle Park, Saddle Brook).
- Valerie Vanieri Huttle, District 37 (Alpine, Bogota, Cresskill, Englewood, Englewood Cliffs, Fort Lee, Hackensack, Leonia, Northvale, Palisades Park, Rockleigh, Teaneck, Tenafly). Huttle is in the same legislative district as the pro-Sweeney Loretta Weinberg and the pro-Coughlin Gordon Johnson.
Huttle said that “way too early,” to determine the next Speaker, and “I feel like this is a disruption and is taking our eye off the things that we need to do by the end of this session."
This indicates open-mindedness, so perhaps Huttle will support Coughlin later in the year.
- Marlene Caride, Gary Schaer, District 36 (Carlstadt, Cliffside Park, East Rutherford, Little Ferry, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, North Arlington, Passaic, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Rutherford, South Hackensack, Teterboro, Wallington, Wood-Ridge. All districts are underaided, often severely so, but Caride and Schaer don't really care.
Schaer voted against SFRA in the first place in 2008. He has insisted Prieto has a "plan." Marlene Caride has joined in Prieto's dilatory committee tactics. Schaer and Caride should be considered to be pro-Prieto.
- Eliana Pintor Marin, Blonnie R. Watson District 29, Belleville & Newark. This is Teresa Ruiz' district and she is strongly pro-reform and pro-Sweeney.
Eliana Pintor-Marin is the only northern cosponsor of Steve Sweeney's reform bill, so it's possible that Pintor-Marin may be keeping her head down rather than a die-hard supporter of Prieto. The same could apply to Blonnie Watson.
- District 28, Neil Caputo, Cleopatra Tucker. Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Newark, Nutley.
The Senator for District 28 is the strongly anti-Sweeney/Norcross Ronald Rice.
Daniel Benson of District 14 and Jamal Holley of District 20 are the only South or Central Jersey Assemblymembers who did not sign up for Coughlin.
Unsurprisingly, the Hudson County districts are for Prieto, Districts 31-33. (McKnight, Chiaravalloti, Mukherji, Chaparro, Jimenez, and Prieto himself.)
In the letter announcing his candidacy for Speaker Coughlin claimed twenty-nine supporters, but that twenty-nine should be seen as a floor, not a ceiling, since at least some of the uncommitted Assemblymembers may sign up for Coughlin in the near future.
Right now Gordon Johnson of District 37 in Bergen County is the only northern Democrat to publicly support Coughlin, but hopefully he won't be the only northerner for long.
It's also fascinating that even though South Jersey and Central Jersey Assembly Democrats are clearly trying to unseat Prieto as Assembly Speaker, North Jersey Senate Democrats are not trying to unseat Steve Sweeney as Senate President.
Steve Sweeney's solid block of support includes many northern Democrats. Even Jersey City's own Senators, Brian Stack and Sandra Cunningham, are for Sweeney. (it is also said Sweeney could get a Republican or two to support him.)
Update: Prieto retaliates against Johnson, removes from committee chair. Replaces Johnson with loyal Benjie Wimberly.