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Analysis: Sweeney VS. NJEA Battle Leaves Political Scar That May Not Heal

Author: David Madden

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — Gloucester County State Senator Steve Sweeney not only won re-election this week, but in the process withstood a multi-million dollar ad campaign waged against him by New Jersey’s largest teacher’s union. And that fight is likely to cost that union big time going forward.

The New Jersey Education Association took on the state senate President over differences on pension reform, and the public fight has left Sweeney more than a little upset.

So how about mending fences?

“It’s really how are they going to mend fences with me,” Sweeney (D-West Deptford) told KYW Newsradio. “They stooped as low as to saying I was trash. They crossed the line. But it’s up to them.”

And he’s not alone.

Party leaders had to spend a lot of money to counter the NJEA’s campaign, money that could have been spent on other races.

For his part, Sweeney insisted his gripe is with the people who run the union, not the general membership.

“The leadership tried to bully people around. I’m a union ironworker. I’m not going to be bullied around,” he added. “Moving forward, they’re going to have to figure out how to serve their members in the best way because I feel they failed them.”

Observers suggest the union’s going to have a harder time advancing its agenda in the legislature.

The NJEA issued a statement referring to its victories on Election night, including helping Phil Murphy to become Governor-elect.

As for the Sweeney battle, the press release suggested their endorsed candidate, Republican Fran Grenier, “fell short.” He lost by over 9000 votes, a margin of 18%.

But the “insurgent campaign electrified New Jersey politics and energized NJEA members, who remain determined to endorse and campaign for pro-public education candidates regardless of party affiliation.”

A union official, offered the opportunity to comment beyond the press release, declined to do so.

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