EDISON – Wiz gubernatorial buzz persisted under the layers of jazz and booze last night at the Middlesex County Democratic Organization’s campaign dinner.
“It’s always flattering,” John Wisniewski, the state party chairman and assemblyman from Sayreville told PolitickerNJ.com earlier this month when confronted with rumors that he might undertake a gubernatorial challenge of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
And “No,” he said last night, short-circuiting the anticipated PolitickerNJ.com question about governor as he focused on welcoming Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy.
He instead spoke freely about the likelihood, in his view, of Democratic Party victories in battleground districts 2 and 38.
But he couldn’t shake the buzz.
At the very least, Wisniewski and Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Peter Barnes leveraged Wisniewski’s support for Barnes in a hardheaded chairman’s fight earlier this year into nearly politically perfect optics for the state party chair.
Facing a sumptuous, packed room at the Pines, Wisniewski strode to the microphone on the introduction of his wife, Debbie, who had just regaled the crowd about her oft perceived Machiavellian husband’s more whimsical side.
Wisniewski took the lectern and promptly gave a fiery speech aimed at Christie, projecting outrage into the room over the GOP governor’s propensity to court right wing support out of state, as Christie did when he appeared at the Koch Brothers convention this past summer.
He laid into Christie heavily, saying the governor “doesn’t have the courage” to speak straight to the voters of New Jersey, choosing manically managed forums to pitch slogans while poking fun at the state in the out-of-state company of the Kochs and others.
He also curiously lingered on Christie’s exhortation to the press to “take the bat” out on progressive state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37), Teaneck.
In short, an outrage, said the state party chair.
“He wants it,” said a party source in the room, watching the lanky Middlesex leader build toward an oratorical crescendo on his way to introducing Malloy.
The same source acknowledged that Wisniewski isn’t the only prospective gubernatorial candidate from Middlesex, nodding at state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-18), who has in two years carved out a progressive stance in contrast to the governor.
Opposing Christie, Buono has built support among progressives, unions and women.
Still, “She doesn’t have a Lynch or a Ferriero and that could hurt her in a primary,” said the source, contrasting that with what is readily acknowledged as Wisniewski’s continuing close contact to South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross, even as Middlesex Chairman Barnes and Wisniewski crowded happily around this night’s definitive gubernatorial presence in sitting Democratic Governor Malloy.