Much of the time a controversial vote comes up in the Senate and the governor stands on one side with a bulk of the Democratic caucus on the other, Trenton watchers can count on some variation of state Senators Sandra Cunningham (D-31) of Jersey City, M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) of Newark, Brian P. Stack (D-33) of Union City and Jeff Van Drew (D-1) of Dennis crossing the partisan channel to stand with the Republican governor.
At least two of those three resent being branded Gov. Chris Christie drones and deny the wind-up nature of the political relationship.
Ruiz insisted her alliance with the governor on issues such as education reform has to do with ideological convergence more than organizational plumbing engineered by North Ward Democratic Leader Steve Adubato Sr. and Christie. “When we deal with the tenure issue (and Ruiz favors reforms championed by the governor), am I going to be characterized the same way?” the Essex County senator wanted to know. “There has to be a change in how we do things.” For her part, Cunningham denied she’s lying in wait to supply the governor with a needed vote at any given time.
“Pension reform was an important fight and I didn’t agree with the governor, and said so,” said Cunningham.
Both Ruiz and Cunningham recorded critical aye votes to finally turn out the lights on New Jersey Network and transfer operations to Adubato’s son, television personality Steve Adubato Jr.
“It was going down, and I wasn’t getting phone calls from people saying it’s important to keep it alive,” said Cunningham. “I think it’s fine going to WNET. I felt it was the best thing for my district.”
“We went through a task force to analyze NJN and based on the legislation put forth it was clear to me we would not have a television station had we not opted to do what we did,” said Ruiz. “It’s important for us to have New Jersey news.” As the Senate prepares to reconvene in the coming days to consider some overrides to the governor’s $900 million in cuts to the Democrats’ budget, Ruiz admitted, “I am extremely disappointed” in the governor’s vetoes.