TRENTON – It’s come down to this for state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), two longstanding Democratic lawmakers who find themselves in a lower level sandbox brawl for the right to shine in 2017 as the most progressive man in the race.
It’s well known in establishment circles that Wisniewski and Lesniak are positioning themselves for guv bids. A former state party chairman and member of the legislature going back to the 1970s, Lesniak told PolitickerNJ last year that he won’t pursue reelection to the state senate. Also a former party chairman, Wisniewski has likewise radiated a two decades and done vibe as he feels out potential guv love.
With Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop hogging alpha male air time in their northern casinos war, Lesniak and Wisniewski in an ongoing under-card attraction have labored mightily in recent weeks and months to highlight their progressive credentials.
Lesniak has been hard afoot on the case for longer than that, actually, tackling causes like marriage equality before it was fashionable, animal rights and the environment. He also rarely misses a rally in support of airport workers. Never a hard-charging Hillary Clinton backer, the suspicion is that Lesniak, who served as state party chairman during the Clinton era, retains loyalty to the ex prez and first lady and as such can’t endorse an alternative.
But Wisniewski can.
The Sayreville assemblyman who sharpened his attack dog teeth as chairman and lead investigator of the joint committee on Bridgegate boosted his Rachel Maddow cred when last month he came out with an endorsement of none other than progressive muscleman Bernie Sanders. Wisniewski subsequently took on the role of state director for Sanders’s New Jersey campaign.
After starting the previous month down 22 points in Iowa to the former secretary of state, Sanders forced Clinton into a dogfight before losing by a razor-thin margin. Now the Vermont senator’s up by double digits over Clinton in Tuesday’s New Hampshire Primary.
Today at the New Jersey Statehouse, Lesniak and Wisniewski continued to cross each other’s paths under Sweeney’s and Fulop’s considerable shadows on their way to trying to out-liberal each other. This time, the pair wound up sternly positioned behind the same podium.
The occasion featured legislators joining NJ Working Families and its partners to unveil a bill that would raise New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 from its current level of $8.38. Workers and advocates praised the bill as a major step forward in the Fight for $15 campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage to a family-sustaining wage.
Chief among those champions stood two of the bill’s sponsors: Lesiak and Wisniewski.
“When businesses fail to pay a living wage, government is forced to fill the gap,” said the latter. “Essentially, taxpayers are subsidizing these low-paying jobs and, in the process, suppressing wages for everyone else in the workforce. It’s not fair for workers or for the taxpayers who end up paying the bill. The American economy works best with a healthy middle class that has money in their pocket to spend.”
“No hardworking New Jerseyan should have to live in poverty,” said Lesniak, the bill’s prime sponsor. “But too many airport workers, childcare providers, home health aides and food service workers can’t earn enough to support themselves, much less sustain a family. This legislation would give a much needed raise to 36 percent of New Jersey’s workforce, lifting families out of poverty while providing small businesses with a massive influx of new customers.”
Following the press conference, Lesniak was on his way to anchoring another press avail where he intended to talk about another progressive issue: affordable housing.
Wisniewski, meanwhile, issued a press release of more support for the Sanders for President Campaign.