First elected to the State Legislature in 1995, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), a former Democratic State Party Chairman and the joint chair of the Legislative Committee that investigated Bridgegate, who went out on his shield last year with a kamikaze gubernatorial bid and picked up 100K votes in the process, fulfilled his last day in the Legislature today.
Once thought to be an obvious choice for speaker if Middlesex played for the legislative leadership position, Wisniewski found himself on the wrong side of an intra-party fight in LD19, which ultimately, even after he had worked so hard at maintaining standing in the party establishment, prevented him from positioning himself for advancement in legislative politics.
While the lanky, intellectually superior (sometimes infuriatingly so) Wisniewski shone in the caucus room, his lowkey running mate Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) from Woodbridge occupied the shadowy realm of never making anyone angry at him (least of all the Woodbridge pooh-bahs close to the channels of power and – as it turned out – with the deeper range South Jersey relationships). When the time came, Coughlin elevated out of nowhere to Speaker, as the political express known as Wiz – a certain future speaker, governor or congressman, avoided utter political derailment by chucking up a 2017 off-the-line run for governor.
All but junked by the machine, Wisniewski reinvented himself on a 2013 MSNBC Rachel Maddow stage as a good government investigator – the endearing heads-up attorney who used subpoena power to ferret out the famous “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email, then refashioned himself off that trampoline as a 2016-2017 Bernie Sanders revolutionary.
Murphy ran over him, but not before Wisniewski appeared – by the reckoning of some insiders – to manhandle Murphy in an NJTV Democratic Primary debate.
Today, Wisniewski – formerly the chairman of the powerful Assembly Transportation Committee – leaves the assembly, but it’s hard to picture the political animal going away for keeps, not when one of his talents through the years was re-bearing himself like a Sayreville Phoenix.