“Nothing will change unless I continue the fight.”
NJ Senator Ray Lesniak
CHERRY HILL — In an email blast to supporters, NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney nixed his bid to replace Chris Christie as NJ’s next Governor. With that, he joined Jersey City Mayor, Steve Fulop on the gubernatorial side-lines.
Sweeney’s exit, while not as shocking as Fulop’s about-face, nonetheless represents a stunning statewide rebuke to Norcross Inc. That part I enjoyed. Judging from my inbox y’all did too. Immensely so.
With respect to Senator Raymond Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the 2017 NJ democratic gubernatorial primary appears over. For all practical purposes, anyway.
So let’s make those party bosses happy and go ahead call the race right here for the big-spending former investment banker Phil Murphy.
Murphy had all the tools to the job done: 1) a relentless hustle 2) unlimited pallets to cash to burn, and 3) all the time in the world. Because when you’re a spectacularly rich investment banker, you retire at your leisure and run around glad-handing the fragile egos who comprise our state’s political potentate class. That’s tough to compete with, especially for someone with an actual job like a Mayor or a Lt Governor.
Or even a columnist.
Candidate Murphy reiterated his support for legalized marijuana just this week. That could make New Jersey the first state to legalize cannabis legislatively. More impressively, Murphy has promised to make opioid addiction a priority and I believe him. He’s got a solid plan on both counts.
Notwithstanding his non-existent track record, Phil Murphy has all the very best moves, all the right words. I should be doing a happy dance about Murphy’s apparent inevitably.
Can you tell that’s not happening?
I craved an exciting, competitive primary race about ideas where we’d debate democratic principles and priorities. The columnist in me savored a juicy, operatic passion-play that allowed democrats from all corners to have a voice. Many would have chosen to vote for Murphy anyway.
But we won’t get any of that. Instead, NJ democrats are again left to ratify (or not) a choice that was ostensibly already made for us by party bosses who anoint their preferred candidate months in advance.
Lesniak: NOT SO FAST!
For his part, Senator Lesiak wasn’t ready to concede defeat.
This race is “hardly sewn up,” Senator Lesniak told PolitickerNJ.
“I have more than 100,000 pledged voters because of my advocacy on issues that matter to those voters. 200,000 votes will win in a two person race. Less in a three person race. This is a horse race and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t understand the new politics. It’s amazing what can be done by social media with a record like mine.”
“Party bosses, millions of dollars, and the opinion of pundits don’t mean nearly as much as in the past. Ask Jeb Bush how that worked out for him! The only thing difficult with continuing is the disappointment from the betrayal of those whom I have fought for and who were bought off by Murphy.”
“It’s eight months before the primary. Fundraising from the usual suspects will be difficult, but I will put in the time to ask. Small dollar events from those who support my fight on issues, a nationwide effort with animal lovers, state environmental supporters, and my deep pocket friends who also want to change the direction of the country and world. Campaign strategy will have to be altered. The bosses are in charge.”
“Nothing will change unless I continue the fight.”
While remaining a bit more circumspect, Assemblyman John Wisniewski is likewise unwilling to call it for Murphy.
“The Democratic primary isn’t sewn up,” Wiz told PolitickerNJ. “I’m waiting until after we finish this election before making any declaration of candidacy for the next one.
In his concession letter to supporters, Senator Sweeney bowed out despite feeling that he “would be able to win” the race to replace Chris Christie.
That feels like a stretch.
Sweeney now plans to hang on as top-dog in Trenton’s upper house, “I intend to run for re-election to the Senate and I am confident I have the support of my fellow Democrats to remain as the Senate President.”
Sweeney still has a year or so to court his colleagues in order to keep his leadership post. He has impressive arsenal of baubles (like committee gavels and PAC money) as a sweetener, a very tangible added inducement to maintain his lofty perch.
So what do you think?
Are you satisfied with Senator Sweeney’s tenure as Senate President these past 7 (of 8) years? Has he demonstrated the kind of leadership qualities to serve NJ voters in the post-Christie era? Rhetorical questions, all. For the time being anyway.
Eight years is a long time to play Alpha dog and clearly Sweeney covets another four more hitch. Considering how much y’all love to speculate on legislative lineup changes, there’s no doubt in my mind that this discussion will slowly simmer into a rolling boil from now until Election Day 2017.
Jay Lassiter is an iconoclast, tech savvy media artiste, street warrior for LGBT liberty and marijuana reform, and an un-intimidated presence if the halls of Trenton power as he aggressively pursues liberal causes. He’s often at brunch and always on Twitter @Jay_Lass, following possible future Senate Presidents like Loretta Weinberg, Nick Scutari, or Joe Vitale.