State Democratic Committee Chairman John Wisniewski expects to make an announcement in the coming weeks about his future as leader of the state party.
An assemblyman from Middlesex County who chairs the Transportation Committee, Wisniewski has served in the position since 2010.
Last Thursday evening, he welcomed former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to New Jersey at the annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser.
Party leaders are already discussing Life after Wiz, although he has made no formal announcement.
Party protocol demands that the gubernatorial candidate in a gubernatorial election year be afforded the courtesy of being able to select his or her own chair to begin serving in that capacity after the primary. While Wisniewski and presumptive Democratic Party nominee state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) have worked to repair past rocky relations, the sitting chairman does not appear to be Buono’s personal choice to continue serving as party chairman.
A short list of Buono loyalists includes Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31), Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley, Hawthorne Democratic Chairman Jeff Gardner and Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal, sources say.
Of these, professional firefighter O’Donnell of Bayonne – noted for his organizing and public speaking skills – appears to be the favorite.
A critic of Gov. Chris Christie’s overhaul of public worker pensions and benefits, O’Donnell has stood beside Buono from the earliest incipient days of the campaign.
If Wisniewski were to not run again in recognition of a Buono-branded chair, he would – as is the courtesy, the history and the bylaws – end his term in June, at which point the committee would select his successor.
The state committee would then have a second election next January, when the committee would consider a leader for a term of a year and a half in length.
That would give Buono’s hand-picked chair at least the general election cycle in which to make an imprint on behalf of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
If Buono were to win the election, her choice would be in a strong position to continue serving as chair, and conceivably have momentum heading into the January state party committee election, in which the candidate for chair would seek a term of a year and half. But if Buono were to lose to Christie, the party apparatus would likely see her pick as a lame duck and move swiftly to mobilize behind an establishment choice, unfettered by an unsuccessful Buono campaign.
That choice would not likely be any of those prospects listed above.