EDISON – They never went head to head in that nefarious map alternative Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) proposed during redistricting, but tonight state senators Barbara Buono and Joe Vitale seized a chance to tag team on Wisniewski.
Wisniewski nominated Peter Barnes of Edison to serve as county party chairman, while Vitale worked the room on behalf of the opposing candidate, labor leader Kevin McCabe.
Then, in a symbolic mano-a-mano with the state party chair, Buono nominated McCabe.
Wisniewski said Barnes would be the best antidote to Gov. Chris Christie.
“As state chair, my job is to lead the fight against Chris Christie,” said the assemblyman from Sayreville. “The most important among those skills is a compass to know who’s side you’re on, and you’ll never need to wonder where Pete’s loyalties are at.”
With the specter of former Chair Joe Spicuzzo’s corruption trial hanging over the event, Barnes expanded Wisniewski’s themes.
“Christie is raising money to target Middlesex County Democrats,” he said. “I hope my record as special agent with the FBI… will send a clear message that corruption at any level will not be tolerated. …We are for education, healthcare and a clean environment, and all those values that improve our quality of life for our citizens in Middlesex County.”
Perth Amboy Chair Leslie Dominguez-Rodriguez ran with Barnes for vice-chair.
Buono rose in support of McCabe.
“I come before you as a Middlesex County Democrat, and I say to you our party is at a crossroads,” said the Senate majority leader. “What is at stake is the future of the Middlesex County Democratic Party and the ideals that guide it. I have no other agenda. I am here to proudly place into nomination the names of Kevin McCabe for county chair and Beatrice Moskowitz (of Metuchen) for vice chair.”
Mobilize and energize.
That’s what McCabe would be able to do, said Buono.
A fervent, persistent critic of the governor’s, the Senate majority leader could hardly be described as an ally of Christie’s in any context, and that’s why the McCabe team plugged her into a breach the opposition has tried to exploit from the start of this contest: McCabe backer Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac’s friendly relationship with the Republican governor.
“The fact that you show the moxie you do in taking on the governor speaks volumes about who you are and about your character,” the 38-year old carpenters union executive McCabe told Buono when he rose after she nominated him.
Towering onstage above the octogenerian Barnes, McCabe told party members it’s time to devise a new plan and hit the Woodbridge-Christie critique head-on.
“There’s fatigure with leadership in the Democratic Party,” he said. “It wasn’t just Woodbridge. 17 out of 25 towns lost for Gov. Corzine. This is not about one town or one organization. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves, ‘is this working?'”
In a long, impassioned speech without notes, “If not now, then when?” asked McCabe. “We’re not slipping, we’ve fallen, folks. …This is a seminal moment.”
Pursuing the vice chairmanship on a ticket with McCabe, Moskowitz received hearty applause from the aging county committee crowd when she promised to be brief.