If chosen, O’Donnell would replace Assemblyman John Wisniewski who vacates the post in June.
Although the party usually goes along with whomever the candidate for governor selects, there are factions of the Democratic Party elsewhere in the state that are backing Assemblyman John Currie of Passaic County, who already said he isn’t seeking the post, and believes Buono should have her choice for the selection.
“I think Barbara will get her way on this,” said O’Donnell. “I think we have the votes. And this is the first woman to run for governor as a Democrat in the state, and I can’t see the party opposing her on this since it would be my job to get her and other Democrats elected in November.”
But O’Donnell’s intimate connection with the Hudson County Democratic Organization, which recently backed incumbent Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy over successful challenger Councilman Steve Fulop, is one argument being used against him. O’Donnell also opposed Tom Payne Jr.’s bid for the 10th Congressional seat last year, even though U.S. Senator Robert Menendez supported Payne.
“My job will be to get Barbara and other Democrats elected.” -- Jason O’Donnell
O’Donnell’s support for Assemblyman Joe Cryan for Assembly speaker over Assemblyman Sheila Oliver two years ago put him at odds with some key Democrats around the state and in Hudson County. He said at the time, he had given his word to support Cryan.
O’Donnell currently serves as Assemblyman in the 31st District which includes all of Bayonne and half of Jersey City. He also serves as Public Safety Director in Bayonne and was Director of Municipal Services prior to that. He is on leave from his job as a firefighter. He earned a bachelor of arts in fire science at New Jersey City University, from which he graduated summa cum laude. He joined the Bayonne Fire Department in 1995.
He has previously served as a member of the city of Bayonne’s Planning Board, a past president of the County Donegal Association, and as a member of the Knights of Columbus.
O’Donnell has served as the chairman of the Bayonne Democratic Committee for almost a decade and has a close association with Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, who is currently chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.
While he said he isn’t overconfident, he believes that he will become chairman of the Democratic Party in New Jersey, a term of office that will last about seven months until after the gubernatorial election in November.
The vote for his position will not take place until after the June Democratic Primary when the state Democrats reorganize. Each municipality will get its committee people in place, and from the county committee, state committee people will be selected. They will eventually vote for state chairman.
“My job will be to get Barbara and other Democrats elected,” O’Donnell said. “I’ll be raising money and seeking votes.”
Although he sees it as an uphill battle to beat Republican Gov. Christopher Christie, O’Donnell called it a fight worth fighting.
“Maybe we’re an underdog in this race, but I’ve always liked being the underdog,” he said.
He also said it will be his job to make sure the Democrats retain control of both legislative houses.
“It would be a really good thing to bring the state chairmanship back to Hudson County,” O’Donnell said. “This has always been a Democratic County.”
This would also counter some of the inroads Republicans have been making lately in the historically Democratic Hudson County.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.