This is Not a Goodbye, By Senator Ray Lesniak

I want to start by thanking my parents, John and Stephanie Lesniak.  My dad, to this very day, is the smartest person I’ve ever known.  He had to drop out of school after the eight grade to work on the docks in Elizabethport to help support his family, and became a building supervisor at GAF Chemical Company.
 
My dad taught me as a 12 year old to stand up to discrimination.  When the first Hispanic family moved into our neighborhood and bought the local grocery store, the neighbors organized a boycott to drive them out. One day when my dad and I were coming out of the store, we were confronted by a handful of angry neighbors demanding why was he patronizing the Hispanic store. My dad responded, “I went into the store because I wanted to buy cigarettes, and they sell cigarettes there.” The neighbors shook their heads in disgust and the boycott was broken.

My mom talked me into getting involved in politics after I graduated law school. After dropping out of Rutgers twice, and serving in the military, I got my degree from Rutgers and decided to go to law school. My mom accused me of going to law school to avoid getting a job. She was right!

After law school, I shunned offers from Wall Street firms and worked for legal services representing poor folks and migrant farm workers. The workers living quarters were in sheds next to stored pesticide containers. Their champion was Senator Byron Baer.

My law degree has help me serve the public. I won a landmark Women’s Rights decision, Ponter v. Ponter, which recognized a women’s right to choose every medical decision involving her body, going beyond Roe v. Wade. I sued the petrochemical industry, Lesniak v. The United States, and made them pay into the fund I established to help cleanup our state’s abandoned toxic waste sites. Currently I’m before the New Jersey Court of Appeals to overturn Governor Christie’s Settlement with ExxonMobil and my legislation is before the United States Supreme Court to allow our casinos and racetracks to have sports betting,  just as Nevada does. During the Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament you can’t get a room in Las Vegas, while Atlantic City is a ghost town, and our racing industry, which provides thousands of jobs and the most acres of open space for horse farms in the country, is in a continual decline.

I got to the Legislature by good luck and hard work. I want to commend the legislators with whom I served over these past forty years. None of us are perfect, as is no one on the face on the earth, but those who put their lives in the public forum deserve more praise than they get from the public and from the press.

I’ve served with hundreds of admirable legislators, and with some not admirable, but just about everyone who serves, sacrifices time with their family and their leisure time, to serve the public, to follow their passion to do good, from wherever  their political beliefs lie.

During my time in the Legislature I  worked with my colleagues not as Democrats or Republicans, or as liberals or conservatives, but as servants of the public, not as servants of our political parties or ideological beliefs.

I sponsored the most significant environmental protection laws in the nation signed by Governors Brenden Byrne and Tom Kean.

I  abolished the death penalty signed by Governor Corzine with the support of Republican Senators Martin, Bateman, and Allen, and my Democratic colleges;  ended mass incarceration in NJ prisons by abolishing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes and, working with Governor Christie, expanded eligibility for treatment instead of prison, for criminal offenders addicted to drugs.

Senator Weinberg and I were in the vanguard of equality for the LGBT Community, along with Assemblyman Ben Mazur and LGBT icon Steven Goldstein, and my partner, Civil Rights Commissioner Salena Carroll.

Senator Cardinale and I, along with Assemblyman Greenwald,  teamed up to stem the tide of auto insurance companies leaving New Jersey and brought competition into the auto insurance market place to hold down  costs, under legislation signed by Governor McGreevey.

I sponsored the most significant economic incentives for job production and investment,  producing more than 70,000 permanent jobs and more than 70,000 building trades jobs and saving tens of thousands of jobs from leaving the state, co-sponsored by Senator Kyrillos and signed into law by Governors Corzine and Christie.
 
Thanks to Pam Capaci, Executive Director, Prevention Links, I became a founder of the only public Recovery High School in New Jersey, The Raymond J. Lesniak Experience • Strength & Hope Recovery High School.  Every one of our graduates has gone on to higher education. Our first graduate is in her sophomore year at my Alma Mater, Rutgers University.
 
Children with substance use disorder most often drop out of their District Schools and have little hope in their lives. A Recovery High School gives them hope. My hope is we see Recovery High Schools open throughout the state. Anyone interested in becoming a founder, be in touch. I’ll help every step on the way.
 
A shining moment in my political career was when I stood with my fellow Senators and took the pledge to Stand Up For The Other, with Dr. Mohammed Ali Chaudry, its author, and Jake Toporek, Executive Director,  New Jersey Federation of Jewish Associations.
 
My latest passion has been to treat God’s creations on earth, the animals who inhabit the planet with us, with compassion and kindness.
 
Which leads me to my conclusion and my continued direction in life, but first I want to thank Senate President Steve Sweeney. My fellow Senators, you have a gem in Steve Sweeney as Senate President. Steve is a Senator’s Senate President. He always looks after the Senate as an institution and after its individual members, as we strive to serve our constituants and the residents of the entire State.
 
I’m leaving elected office, but I’m not going away. My passion won’t let me. That’s why I ran for governor, to do more, to have a bigger platform to pursue justice for all, not only in New Jersey,  but across America and internationally.
 
I have enjoyed every moment of my forty years in the New Jersey Legislature and
Inshallah, God Be Willing, I will enjoy many more in the pursuit of my passion, Justice for all. 
This is not a goodbye. I’ll see you often. Hasta luego, a la prochaine. Dziękuję bardzo
 
Thank you
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