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Grapevine: Sweeney, Fulop compete for the early 2017 buzz

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Gov. Chris Christie may be gunning for a run at the Oval Office in 2016, but Senate president Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) was the one at the White House last week.

Atlantic City's White House Sub Shop, that is.

In the backdrop of the three-day New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference, Sweeney publicly met with new mayor-elect Don Guardian, a Republican, at the famed eatery. They talked, munched and gave reporters quotes about how they're going to make Atlantic City a better place.

While Sweeney's concerns for the troubled Shore resort may be sincere, he may have bigger sights in mind: the governor's office in 2017.

Sweeney, however, already may have a Democratic challenger in Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who was extremely active at social events during the conference.

“He's definitely making the rounds,” the insider said of Fulop.

As is the case every year at the conference, nighttime parties hosted by legislators and officials tend to open up the floor for some serious rounds of schmoozing and politicking. Both Sweeney and Fulop hosted parties last week.

“I could tell Fulop was working it,” the insider said.

Formula One finds finances 

Organizers of the planned Formula One race in New Jersey have turned their focus to 2015, a source said, as a second postponement becomes ever closer to reality. But here's the good news: the group is lining up a Wall Street powerhouse to help plug those pesky financing gaps.

The sponsors have tapped a major private equity firm to provide the missing funds, the source said.

Details are still unclear, but such a deal would help cure what has ailed the race since last year, after it was announced with great fanfare in late 2011.

The event, known as the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, would bring the international racing circuit to a street course in Weehawken and West New York, with cars zipping up and down the Hudson waterfront with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. A 10-year calendar of races was set to begin last year, but funding shortfalls caused organizers to postpone its debut to 2014.

And it's appearing likely that it will stall again despite its placement on next year's F1 calendar. Bernie Ecclestone, the circuit's commercial chief, has raised doubts to reporters about the race at just about every F1 event in recent months.

The international governing body for auto racing is scheduled to adopt its final 2014 racing calendar next month.

Tech accelerator for Hoboken

Entrepreneurs and startup supporters are exploring whether to form a technology accelerator in Hoboken, according to a source involved in discussions. The source said no firm details are in place, but technology advocates are testing whether there is sufficient demand to proceed with a program.

Accelerators are startup incubators that provide entrepreneurs opportunities to earn seed capital and gain access to investors, mentors, business training, co-working space and other services.

New Jersey accelerators include the Clifton-based TechLaunch, formed through public and private partners.

TechLaunch runs programs annually, often holding events at Montclair State.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community.Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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