Winners and Losers: Week of June 6th


Ray Lesniak

The veteran state senator from Elizabeth prevailed Tuesday in a very tough showdown with Democrats for Change.  The 54-46% victory allows Lesniak, a 34-year veteran of the Legislature, to consider the future on his own terms instead of getting bounced into oblivion on someone else’s timeline. While Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-20) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage were more mechanically engaged in the re-election ground game, the senator contributed significantly to the ticket with money and heavyweight contacts, including former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, all of whom contributed robocalls at the senator’s request.

Tony Bucco

Facing a GOP Primary challenge from Morris County Freeholder Director Bill Chegwidden, the veteran senator from the 25th District registered a 3-1 victory and maintained solid control of his fiefdom, which now includes Bernardsville in Somerset County.

Joe Cryan

The Assembly majority leader’s running mates counted on him to muster big numbers in Union to offset turnout in Elizabeth. As it turned out, the numbers were not monster-sized, but the plurality was sufficient to check  the opposition in District 20’s largest municipality. Backed by the NJEA, cops and firefighters, Cryan was able to use the political platform of a tough race to springboard back into Trenton as the energized caucus leader of the fight against Gov. Chris Christie’s and Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) health benefits and pension reforms.

Chris Christie

The governor karate chopped NJN, endorsed Bucco, and could delight in watching his nemesis, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan, (D-20), joust frantically with the Elizabeth Board of Education, an entity that endorsed Christie in 2009. The governor, moreover, was able to enjoy more Democratic Party drama as the Assembly struggled in the face of national union threats to withdraw support from Democrats tampering with collective bargaining. As Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), East Orange, endured a frightful tug of war between her caucus and the Christie/DiVincenzo/Norcross axis, the governor lapped up the Shakespearean-sonnets of Camden Mayor Dana Redd shamelessly cast in his direction.

Sam Thompson

When the Middlesex County GOP chairman eagerly backed Scott Sipprelle for Congress last year, he did so in part with the understanding that Sipprelle – a Princeton venture capitalist – would fundraise into the future for a long broken-down party operation. This week, Sipprelle formally announced the formation of the Lincoln Club, and the PAC’s commitment to raising cash for two Middlesex Republicans.

Al Gaburo

The Somerset County GOP chairman successfully oversaw the write-in vote campaign for Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli, who wants the Assembly seat vacated by Assemblywoman Denise Coyle, (R-16).

Brian Stack

No, you’re not misreading the following sentence, it’s just what we’re reduced to in being deprived of a legitimate Hudson County war. Running unopposed, the 33rd District senator destroyed his opposition, which loosely defined could be termed everyone else running in separate contests in Hudson County. Stack earned 16,000 votes, or more than what the other two Hudson senators recorded combined.

Scott Rumana

The chairman of the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization weathered a slugfest with GOP Strong to hang onto his chairmanship. As with Lesniak, above, certainly, one can make the argument that a bloodied Rumana equals a loss, but the bottom line is the chairman’s ticket prevailed. Sources say if he hadn’t won, it would have been sayonara for Rumana.


NJN Public Television

Gov. Chris Christie this week announced that operation of the state-owned New Jersey Network will be transferred to WNET beginning July 1. The new network will be called NJTV and will feature New Jersey-centric coverage provided by Caucus Education Corp., a non-profit operated by Steve Adubato Jr., as well as other entities. Christie said as part of the five-year agreement with WNET, the new station will provide a newscast every night, will continue to present live coverage of major Statehouse addresses and will be required to program at least 20 hours of New Jersey-centric programming per week.

Elizabeth Board of Education

The LD20 Democrats for Change opposition ticket terrified the Democratic Party establishment and defeated state Sen. Ray Lesniak’s, (D-20), team in Elizabeth, a victory in and of itself. Given the closeness of their competitive effort here, the organization rightly anticipates future victories. But the BOE-fueled change ticket barely bested its usual performance of 3,500 votes, which means at present it’s not able to expand or appeal to voters beyond its defined operation.  Cryan similarly pulled off an anti-Christie revolution in branding Dems for Change Christie drones. Like his opponents, Cryan’s local organization hit the same 2,000-vote ceiling it hit last year. But he’s the Union County Democratic establishment. For lasting success, the change team ultimately needs to penetrate past just those employed by the Board of Education and their friends and family.

William Sullivan

The Republican Party establishment had hoped the Essex Fells councilman would drain state Sen. Dick Codey in the 27th District, but the aloof bond attorney didn’t return phone calls and in a Morris County Q and A, kept telling the audience in response to real world questions that he was a bond attorney. The result was he fumbled away the election to a Tea Party-backed candidate. Essex Republicans complained that Morris County Republican Chairman John Sette should have done more to help Sullivan, but as a candidate Sullivan didn’t do much to help himself.

The Democratic caucus

It’s time for that annual remake of the Steve McQueen classic, “Papillion,” where a ragtag group of prisoners condemned to an island, including Dustin Hoffman and some no-names from the 1970s, try to escape by absolutely every means necessary but can’t. Substitute the French government for Unions and Democratic Party bosses and you get the picture.

Cory Booker

In an outright display of disrespect not witnessed since U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, (D-Haddon Heights), famously failed to show up at U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) re-election campaign, then announced his candidacy against him, then promptly got stomped on, the mayor of Newark awkwardly opened CoryPac with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and pledged not to run against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, (D-NJ). One phone call to King Lear might have staved off the resulting backlash, but the other signal Booker’s PAC formation triggered was the recurring chewed-over criticism that he too obviously wants out of Newark.

Terrance Bankston

By all accounts, he ran a great campaign for freeholder, pulling out every stop he could, including endorsements from former foes, including South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka. But in the end, the long-shot Essex County freeholder candidate ran into that old brick wall in Essex County – impregnable these days to almost everyone save state Sen. Ronald L. Rice – called Line A.

Winners and Losers: Week of June 6th