NEWARK – Whatever happens district-wide, Democrat Mark Alexander is committed to running for the state Senate.
“In to win,” he told PolitickerNJ.com in his law office Thursday at Seton Hall University.
What that means is he won’t change his mind and run for an Assembly seat if movement creates an opening.
“I’ve ruled out the Assembly,” Alexander said. “That’s not what I’m looking at.”
The former state director of Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential Primary campaign wants to be the senator.
The question alights as state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34) ups her visibility ahead of next year’s election in the face of Alexander’s energized challenge and creates little doubt out there that she’s pursuing re-election.
But the district remains volatile.
Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) won’t challenge Gill, according to sources close to the speaker.
But if Gill for some reason doesn’t run for re-election and Oliver moves up to run for the state Senate, or if battle lines create the opportunity for an alternative slate to challenge the establishment, the lower opening wouldn’t entice Alexander, he insisted.
Despite the power of the organization line in this county, he believes he can knock off a politically complacent incumbent even if he has to needle her from the wilderness.
Not that he doesn’t want the line.
He wants to be that guy who can work with powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo to get money for DiVincenzo’s beloved Turtle Back Zoo, he says – and be “the candidate of the people.”
For the challenger, son of Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights counsel Clifford Alexander, it’s essentially a two-pronged campaign. There’s the effort to win the elusive backing of the Essex County Democratic Organization, which sources say doesn’t want to rile Gill, an African American woman.
Then there’s the campaign itself – on or off the line – toward the June showdown.
The last time someone won off the line here was 2003, when Gill defeated East Orange Democratic leader Leroy Jones. Gill won that race in part because of a 9-1 showing in her hometown of Montclair, which is also Alexander’s hometown, where he has four children in the school system and has built alliances, among them with Blue Wave icon Marcia Marley.
“We’re getting people’s attention,” said Alexander, who was unimpressed by Gill’s showing in last year’s June Congressional Primary and sees a chance with aggressive fundraising to offset party advantages Gill may have if she lands the Essex line.