Assemblyman Joe Cryan got a little payback today.
Days after Senate President Steve Sweeney called state party chairman-to-be Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell a “beard” for Cryan and said the pair were dividing the Democratic party, Cryan put a bullet in Sweeney’s signature gun control package.
The move came just minutes after Sweeney ally George Norcross threw his weight behind state Sen. Ray Lesniak for state party chairman over O’Donnell, who is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono’s choice.
Cryan was a crucial vote to release Sweeney’s bill, which would require instant background checks for gun purchasers, out of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. But instead of supporting the measure as nearly all Democrats have to date, Cryan abstained, in effect killing the bill. Democratic South Jersey Assemblyman Nelson Albano, a known gun supporter, voted against the bill, leaving Cryan as the swing vote.
“It didn’t have the votes,” Cryan said. “I had questions about the cost, I had questions about the timing for handing it over to the executive branch and those questions weren’t answered.”
The state party chair succession is playing out in a public spectacle pitting Sweeney and others against Cryan, who is an advisor to the Buono campaign. Sweeney has been vocal in his opposition to O’Donnell, who along with Cryan was part of an attempt last year to overthrow Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. Lesniak has emerged as a potential spoiler for O’Donnell but it’s unclear if it will come down to a vote at next week’s Democratic convention.