Wisniewski looks forward to Wednesday talk with chairs

He hears the party primal screams out there and says he believes they’re misplaced.

In an effort to address his party organization’s worries, State Democratic Chairman John Wisniewski will convene another conference call this Wednesday with county party chairs to try to figure out a continuing post Cory Booker plan.

The conference call follows one that occurred two weeks ago in which the chairman and county leaders strove for party unity in a shambles of misgivings over Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s poll numbers, which are high; and party expectations, which are low.

“Since that time the race has evolved to where there is one announced candidate and two potential candidates,” Wisniewski told PolitickerNJ.com.

The declared candidate is state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18), while state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and state Sen. Dick Codey (D-27) continue to graze on the notion of governor.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker decided last month to run for U.S. Senate rather than challenge Christie.

“The chairs are making decisions on whom to back,” Wisniewski said. “I am certain within a short number of days we will be certain who will be running for governor.”

Part of the worry about Buono comes out of the southern part of the state, domain of the sitting Senate president. A former Senate majority leader, Buono bucked Sweeney on public sector pension and benefits overhaul and subsequently lost her leadership post. One source said Sweeney’s reluctance to back Buono is so marked that he would even warm to the candidacy of Codey, whom he knocked off the throne to become Senate president.

Should Democratic Party voters worry about the fact that deposed leaders are two-thirds of the party’s options right now, PolitickerNJ.com asked Wisniewksi.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned in politics is that the tables turn,” the party chairman said.

Joe Roberts, for example, fell out of favor when he tried to take a run at budget leadership, soul searched, and returned as speaker of the Assembly.

“It’s an unfair assessment to portray it through the lens of Barbara Buono as the former majority leader, just as it is unfair to portray her as the woman candidate,” he said. “Barbara Buono happens to be a good candidate who is also a woman.

“I don’t believe it’s fair to characterize the pension and benefits fight as a continuing division in the Democratic Party,” he added. “We agreed to disagree on that and now the issue is behind us. Reforms in and of themselves are not the solution (to the state’s fiscal crisis). We still have a huge mountain to climb.”

Wisniewksi said he doesn’t take the chafing within his party too seriously or personally.

“I think clearly this is a business where people love to grumble,” he said. “Insofar as there is an expectation that the state party has a magic wand and corrals candidates, I think that is unrealistic. The county chairs have their lines and have their own screening processes. My role is to see if we can get a common thread, but ultimately it is a function of those organizations to choose a candidate. Right now, Barbara Buono is leading the delegate count, with support (in Somerset, Middlesex and Monmouth).”

"I’m excited as hell about CD 5. We have encouraged Congressman [Steve] Israel to get involved in CD 5."
—Democratic State Party Chairman John Currie