The Democrats in NJ have picked a real doozy to try to replace Christie

Chris Christie’s presidential campaign may be stalled (to put it charitably) for the moment, but he’s surely thinking about his future. One thing that will not include, however, is another term as Governor. The Garden State limits candidates to two consecutive terms in office and Christie is already in the middle of his second one. (Just for the record, he could run again later, but he can’t be elected to three in a row.) Focusing on his prospects for a stay in the West Wing seems rather off topic at the moment since he’s still hovering at around 2% in the latest round of polling. So even if Jersey won’t lose their guy to Washington, D.C. in 2017, who will replace him?

The Democrats seem to have latched on to one potential contender who they hope will finally flip the governor’s mansion back from red to blue. Ladies and gentlemen… meet Ray Lesniak.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) says he is planning a gubernatorial run in 2017 since he’s “the best one to put the state on the right track.”

Lesniak, who spoke to Hudson County View after being honored at Union City’s Paw Fest on Saturday, had a good laugh when asked what made him decide that the time to run for governor is now.

“Well, first of all, what I have said is I am planning on running for governor and not running for re-election to the Senate,” he said.

“This state does need strong leadership, I believe I have been a strong leader and I’m the best one to put the state on the right track, if I finally, ultimately decide to run. But, I’m planning it and I’m seriously considering it: let’s put it that way, that’s for sure.”

Lesniak seems to be pretty much the definition of a New Jersey career politician. He’s been in the state senate for nearly a quarter of a century and is one of the well known hand shakers and deal makers. But there’s a lot more to his story than simple public service. The fact that he’s a lawyer with a well established firm isn’t particularly notable since so many politicians come from the legal field, but as the New York Times reported way back in 2006, (when McGreevey was stepping down and Christie’s predecessor, Jon Corzine was preparing to take office) this particular law firm has a bit of a history. While simultaneously serving in the legislature, Lesniak’s firm had also been doing business with the state and profiting from it quite handsomely. For his part, Ray just saw this as business as usual.

Mr. Lesniak is one of a handful who wield their influence under the State House dome, a few dozen paces from the governor’s office. While most of those who run the state behind the scenes are unelected, Mr. Lesniak is, in essence, a hybrid who multitasks as an elected official and political leader. Like his State Senate colleague Sharpe James, who is also the mayor of Newark, and Robert Menendez, New Jersey’s newly designated United States senator, he has emerged as a central figure at the intersection of political, legal and business interests.

At the heart of that nexus is Mr. Lesniak’s law firm, Weiner Lesniak, based in Parsippany. In the past decade, it has done legal work for scores of New Jersey municipalities, collecting millions of dollars. In many instances, the contracts awarded to Mr. Lesniak’s firm came after the senator or his allies offered campaign contributions or other political support to local officials who decide who will get the work, a fact that Mr. Lesniak acknowledges.

In addition to running a firm which was receiving millions of dollars per year representing the government he also worked for, Lesniak has been a prolific fundraiser for the Democrats. And after the people he bundled for ascend to office, his firm somehow manages to wind up representing them and earning even more. Does he have a problem with that? The Times asked him about it:

“I don’t deny that,” Mr. Lesniak said of connections between his support and contracts for his firm. “People say, ‘You raise money for people who get elected and then they hire your law firm.’ I go, ‘Shocking, isn’t it?’ Are you supposed to hire people who donated to your opponent?”

Some might read that and shrug their shoulders, saying that what you’re hearing is just New Jersey Democrat politics in a nutshell. But in the past, most of them at least make the effort to try to fool us and make things look like they’re on the up and up. I actually have to give Lesniak credit here… he’s refreshingly honest about how he approaches the business of government and his personal fortunes. It’s easier to deal with a power broker when you know he’s actually got his hand on the tiller.

Could New Jersey’s Democrat Party actually nominate Lesniak to run for the state’s highest office with this sort of a record behind him? Hey, folks… this is the Garden State we’re talking about here. Nothing is impossible.

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