ATLANTIC CITY — Some top party officials will be skipping the New Jersey state Democratic Convention in the city this week.
Senate President Steve Sweeney will not attend the event at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City despite being the second-highest ranking Democrat in the state government.
“The Senate president has scheduling conflicts that won’t allow his attendance, but it is also true that the Senate president and many other Democrats are unhappy with the state party for taking sides in policy debates among Democrats,” Senate spokesman Rich McGrath said in a statement. “The party is supposed to represent all Democrats, and it is divisive and counterproductive to take sides.”
Over the summer, state party Chairman John Currie publicly backed Gov. Phil Murphy in the budget battle that led to the state shutdown.
The state Democratic Convention will kick off Thursday in Atlantic City and feature speakers such as Murphy and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez.
Sweeney will still attend the ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. Thursday at Stockton University’s Atlantic City campus. Murphy will not.
Murphy will attend a 1 p.m. news conference on the future of the Atlantic City state takeover on Thursday at Richmond Avenue School in the city. Sweeney will not.
The governor and the senate president, both Democrats, have had public disagreements over policy and the state budget.
The disagreements led to the state shutdown over the summer.
There is no direct evidence that, while Murphy and Sweeney will be in the city throughout the day, they are purposely avoiding each other.
New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, as well as Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, will also not be attending the state convention.
Weinberg wrote in an open letter on bluejersey.com that the convention was scheduled with too little notice and that she had a pre-scheduled conflict.
“Because of the late notice, and some obligations to local fundraisers and campaign activities, I will have to miss out this year,” Weinberg wrote. “I certainly hope it is a successful gathering as we in N.J. get ready to do our part to flip some seats from red to blue.”
The majority leader also suggested the Democrats hold more panels at the convention that discuss hot-button issues such as prison reform, immigration reform, environmental regulations, women’s access to reproductive health care, and the pros and cons of impeaching President Donald Trump.