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Grapevine: Pondering Camden’s future after Mayor Dana Redd

Camden Mayor Dana Redd announced last week that she does not plan on seeking a third term, instead giving her full-throttled support to council President Frank Moran, who will now aim to succeed her.

Though not necessarily a surprise, Redd’s planned departure comes at a pivotal time, as the city is in the midst of finalizing deals for several high-profile, multimillion-dollar projects and is seeing its long-anticipated transformation well underway.

Sources said Redd was the right mayor at the right time for Camden, understanding that a strong partnership with the state and the business community was needed if the city was ever going to begin to realize some of its potential.

The relationship between Redd, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie was also a key factor in Camden’s resurgence, a source says. Redd, a former city councilwoman before serving a short stint in the state Senate, bought into the opportunities available under the Economic Opportunity Act and worked cooperatively with Christie on matters pertaining to education and public safety.

Of course, having South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross III as a mutual ally also helped.

One source noted that, while he’s hopeful Moran, should he successfully succeed Redd, will embody many of the same approaches to the city’s continued redevelopment, there is a little hesitation over the move coming at this particular time.
A smooth transition will be vital, the source said.

One potential landing spot for Redd that’s currently making its way through the rumor mill: on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy’s ticket as lieutenant governor.

For Christie, is this the end to Bridgegate at last?

Although Gov. Chris Christie and his administration did their best to turn an overwhelmingly negative day into a positive by appearing at the White House for the announcement that he will be chairing President Donald Trump’s commission on opioid abuse, an issue he has undoubtedly championed, last Wednesday was still all about Bridgegate.

That’s because, up in Newark, former aides Bridget Kelly and Bill Baroni were receiving their prison sentences — 18 months and 24 months, respectively — for their roles in orchestrating the politically motivated lane closures in Fort Lee at the George Washington Bridge.

Like he often tends to do, Christie got out in front of the news, giving a few television interviews ahead of the sentencing to say that it wasn’t his job to pass judgment on Baroni and Kelly prior to their day in court.

The convenient choice of last Wednesday to make his appearance in Washington was transparent to those paying attention, but the good news for Christie is that this time it may really be over.

For good.

As one source notes, Christie is too politically ambitious to rule out any future run at office and so, undoubtedly, Bridgegate will always follow in his shadow. It’s tough to pinpoint, but the scandal was at least partially responsible for his failed run at the White House this past year.

But rather than have to point to the expensively flawed Mastro Report as evidence of his innocence, he now gets to say that a federal investigation identified those involved and prosecuted them. He also now is able to put it behind him for the remainder of his time in Trenton.

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

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