TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved two nominees to the state’s Board of Public Utilities at its meeting here today.
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, Chairman of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, and Richard Mroz, a former Whitman Administration Chief Counsel, Special Counsel, and Authorities director were both released following brief testimonies before the committee, where members put up few challenges to the nominees’ records.
Chivukula was described as “intelligent” and “sincere,” while Mroz, to serve as the next president of BPU, was praised as the “right” candidate for the job.
Conspicuously not present during Chivukula’s testimony, however, was state Sen. Ray Lesniak, whose own relationship with the Somerset Democrat has been tense in recent weeks.
Coming off a hard-fought loss to state Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) in the June Democratic primary for New Jersey’s Twelfth Congressional District seat, Chivukula offended some Middlesex County Democrats for competing in the primary against their favored candidate, state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14).
Those Democrats include Lesniak, who was displeased that Chivukula teamed up with some of his local foes, the members of the Elizabeth Board of Education, during the primary campaign.
Lesniak left the hearing prior to Chivukula’s testimony today, abstaining from the vote. Lesniak told PolitickerNJ following the hearing that that abstention “speaks for itself.”
Mroz was unanimously supported, will Chivukula was released with 11 yes votes, Lesniak’s abstention, and a no vote by Republican state Sen. Mike Doherty, who, despite being a personal friend of Chivukula’s said he could not go against his constituents by supporting Chivukula’s progressive positions on environmental issues, such as the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.