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Bridgegate to benefit Fulop?

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No one in Gov. Chris Christie's office has been accused of closing lanes at the Holland Tunnel, but that doesn't mean Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop might not have anything to gain from what has now been aptly named “Bridgegate.”

In the emails and text messages released and widely published last week between Christie's deputy chief of staff and a former appointee at the Port Authority, Fulop's name comes up as someone on a figurative list of political enemies alongside Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.

Fulop has not only been an outspoken critic of Christie's, but also of “Christie-crats,” a term coined for the swarm of state Democrats who have aligned themselves with the governor.

One insider says that could help Fulop down the road if he does in fact have gubernatorial aspirations in 2017, as has been rumored.

That's especially the case since his most formidable likely opponent would be Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat who's frequently been seen as the politician on the other side of the aisle that Christie enjoys reaching out to.

But even without Bridgegate, that's an alliance that most likely would have been coming to an end soon as Christie plans for his exit, whether it be to the White House or elsewhere, the insider says.

“I would expect Democrats to move slowly away from Christie anyway,” the source said.

 Political power play for Devils

The new owners of the Devils and the Prudential Center have promised major changes on the business side the operation, but a new hire could help foster a different type of change.

The ownership group announced last week that Jim Leonard, a former state treasury official and policy adviser, had been hired as a senior vice president of community investment for the NHL team and Newark-based arena.

It's a move that comes with a touch of irony, as one insider noted the sometimes-rocky relationship between the state and previous owner Jeff Vanderbeek.

The early years of the Prudential Center were marked by price wars with the state-owned Izod Center, an aging facility that looked even older when the Rock opened in 2007. At one point in 2009, Vanderbeek called on the state to close the venue, though the tug of war largely died down after that.

Since taking over in August, the Devils' new executive team has pledged a commitment to the state, among other things, so having someone with contacts in Trenton can't hurt the cause.

Speaking up for business

Believe it or not, Gov. Chris Christie's front office isn't the only place experiencing turnover in Trenton these days.

As the new Legislature takes form Tuesday, the Assembly will see new leadership as Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) becomes the new speaker.

Prieto, to some, will be a welcome addition.

That's especially the case since outgoing Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) caught the ire of some in the business community during lame duck by moving along regulatory bills like ban-the-box and legislation preventing employers from conducting credit checks on potential employees.

“He wants to have an open-door policy with everyone,” one insider said of Prieto.

How business friendly he will actually be is yet to be determined. But the insider said Prieto's willingness to consider everything is a nice start.

Reorganization will take place on Tuesday. Christie's State of the State Address will follow.

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

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