The game shifts hour by hour in the 19th Legislative District where two definite candidates in the race – retired Superior Court Judge Mathias Rodriguez of Perth Amboy and health care professional Jean Pierce of Woodbridge- will today officially be joined by Edison Municipal Judge Craig J. Coughlin of Woodbridge.
Exactly one week in front of a special convention by the Middlesex County Democratic Committee, Coughlinintends to file withthe backing of South Amboy Mayor John T. O’Leary, who ended his own bid last week to secure the seat of Assemblyman Joe Vas (D-Perth Amboy).
Two other potential candidatesvyingto bethe ticket mate of Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville)- Woodbridge Councilman Charles Kenny and Perth Amboy businesswoman Arlene Acosta – have made no public declaration about their intentions.
They have until the end of the day to file.
Although he could not immediately be reached for comment, sources this afternoon said Coughlin was moments away from filing with the committee.
“I can’t think of a better candidate for the position, including myself, that’s how strongly I feel about Craig Coughlin,” said O’Leary.
Born and raised in South Amboy, Coughlin also served as a councilman in the lower Raritan Bay town.
“This is a true Democrat in every sense of the word, who understands the problems of the 19th District,” O’Leary added.
Rodriguez alliesworry that a strong Woodbridge candidate couldshort circuitthe Perth Amboy judge’s candidacy, or at least force him into a second ballot situation where Woodbridge as the biggest municipality in the district could have the upper hand.
Those who want Kenny to run fear a strong Coughlin candidacy could complicate the veteran councilman’s ability to corner the all-important Woodbridge vote, but sources say Kenny may shelve his own run now that Coughlin has entered the contest.
The councilman could not be reached for comment.
Having exited the race last week after failing to get around rolling headlines about the interplay between his insurance work and hisduties as a local elected official,O’Learyinsisted his backing of Coughlin has nothing to do with entangling other candidacies.
“I have no problem with Judge Rodriguez,” said O’Leary. “He’s served as a superior court judge, and I have a lot of respect for that. But I don’t know him on a personal level. I do know Craig Coughlin, both personally and professionally. He’s a bright individual who understands politics.”