Lance creates a new definition of “partisan staff”

Leonard Lance likes to puts statesmanship ahead of partisanship. That may be an admirable trait — perhaps the Legislature could use some more people like him — but some GOP diehards think that as the Senate Minority Leader, Lance should be a little more partisan and much more aggressive in taking on the majority party. So Lance’s critics won’t be happy to learn that the people who speak for him — at least to the press — aren’t even Republicans. Mike Jennings, who gave up his job covering Statehouse politics for the Trenton Times for a $94,000-a-year job as Senate Republican Communications Director, is an unaffiliated voter. The Robbinsville resident votes in general elections, but not in primaries. Michelle Peal, who joined Lance’s Trenton staff earlier this year, is a registered Democrat in Hillsborough. Senate Republicans are looking to hire another Communications staffer, and one source with knowledge of the Senate GOP operation says that one of the candidates being considered by John Samerjan, the Executive Director of the Senate Republican staff, was suggested by a top aide to Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts. Early last year, Samerjan caused some heads to turn at a Senate Republican staff meeting when he identified himself as a “Codey Man.” “This doesn’t surprise me. No wonder they can’t articulate a clear and coherent platform as the opposition party,” said Kevin Collins, a Republican strategist from Bergen County who worked for the State Assembly when Paul DiGaetano was Minority Leader. “That is what is wrong with this party and its leadership. We are in an alternative universe here in New Jersey, just as the national Dems won’t make the gains this year they are hoping for, the GOP here won’t make the gains it is hoping for. You can’t beat something with nothing.” GOP State Chairman Tom Wilson defended Lance’s hiring of non-Republican staffers. “I’ve not seen anything that would make me question their ability or loyalty to the Senate Republicans,” said Wilson.

Lance creates a new definition of “partisan staff”