Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Lesniak holds off political newcomer in Democratic state Senate primary in Union County  
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak — New Jersey’s second longest-serving lawmaker — has emerged victorious in one of the most closely watched primaries in the state. Lesniak tonight defaeted Donna Obe in Union County’s 20th District, securing the Democratic nomination in another re-election bid, the Associates Press projects. Although it was one of the tougher races faced by Lesniak, who is accustomed to skating to re-election, it was not close. Lesniak beat Obe by a nearly 2-1 margin. Having won the primary in this heavily Democratic district, Lesniak is all but assured re-election in November. This is the second time in two years Lesniak survived a primary challenge. In 2011, he fended off Jerome Dunn, who was backed by the Elizabeth Board of Education, a rival political machine.
I was a bit concerned about this election. The Regular Democrats were nearly upset in the low-turnout primary a few years ago. But they won this one easily. Unremarked upon was the third slate of candidates with the label similar to the insurgent slate backed by the autocratic, rightist Elizabeth Board of Education. This is an old trick to draw votes away from opponents. I'll have to ask a more politically-savvy local friend what that was all about.

The primary forced Lesniak to spend heavily. It's money he won't need in November, as this is a safe Democratic District. The primary challenge also made him do a lot of personal appearances; he was everywhere at events large & small, I hope he keeps that up so no one can again accuse him of not being familiar with his own district. Yeah he has a big house down the shore & a loft in NYC. But he's also a successful, well-connected lawyer in his sixties. Of course he's wealthy. He's also more liberal than he used to be, more outspoken.

The Regular Democratic Organization could use some reform. The entrenched party chairwoman with her cushy work-at-home county job was pressured into resigning by a Star-Ledger expose. They put a 25 year-old Latino man on the Freeholder ballot, which means he leap-frogged the usual route of slogging in the apparatus for a decade.  The Elizabeth Board of Ed is a far more autocratic political machine,  with a boss & his minions, under investigation for a nnmber of misuses of funds. They are also tied to a large fundamentalist church in Elizabeth.

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