The bigger inside contest if Bonnie Watson Coleman leaves the Legislature to run for Lt. Governor is who would succeed her as Assembly Majority Leader. Her two main competitors when she won the post after the 2005 election, Neil Cohen and Wilfredo Caraballo, are no longer in the Legislature. The race is significant because next Majority Leader could become Assembly Speaker someday.
The conventional wisdom is that Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the Democratic State Chairman, would be a leading candidate for Majority Leader. Cryan has a strong relationship with Speaker Joseph Roberts and with Democratic Party leaders across the state. Watson Coleman was the Democratic State Chair before she became Majority Leader.
Other possible candidates, listed alphabetically: Albert Coutinho (D-Newark), Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield), Gerald Green (D-Plainfield), Nellie Pou (D-Paterson), Ruben Ramos (D-Hoboken), Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), and John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville). Pou has impressed Democrats as Appropriations Committee Chair, and Schaer has moved up quickly during his two terms in the Assembly and replaced Cohen as Chairman of the powerful Banking and Insurance Committee.
As long as Roberts is Speaker, it is unlikely that a South Jersey legislator would be a contender for the Majority Leader post.
The election of a new Majority Leader is based on Democrats keeping control of the Assembly in 2009. Watson Coleman, as a candidate for Lt. Governor, would be out of the Assembly regardless of Gov. Jon Corzine’s political fate.