When the late Alan Karcher ran for governor in 1989 he set out to accomplish two goals: passionately speak about his favorite progressive causes; and win his home town of Sayerville.
State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) appears to still have one of those bars in range, the depth of his passion never in doubt, and never in question the expert cast of his knowledge, even as the county line he for so many years bankably embodied ironically presents challenges for him now as he trudges utterly off the reservation in a Democratic Primary.
A beloved speaker of the General Assembly who was better at the inside game than many of his contemporaries and who could out-wonk most, Karcher cared enough about the issues at the outset of his campaign not to care that he lacked establishment support in his home county of Middlesex.
But he did better than simply win his home town, as Congressman Jim Florio easily won the Democratic Primary with 68.23%, followed by the late Barbara Boggs Sigmond (16.53%), followed by Karcher, who picked up 15.25%.
Lesniak for a long time has made the case that progressive groups will consider the work product of his life, long on advocacy for their interests, and reward him with statewide love, a game plan with longer odds now as group after group flocks to perceived winner Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive.
Struggling on the fundraising front, the senator from Elizabeth faces the very real bewilderment of the moment, as he he tries to figure out how to go forward now with the likes of Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) and former Treasury Department prosecutor Jim Johnson running animated and public financing-qualified if doomed versions of the same progressive campaign Lesniak sought.
But maybe they’re not the rivals anymore, for Lesniak, and even less Murphy, as Alan Karcher’s let the county lines and establishment rinds of frayed and waylaid intellect be damned – shows at least a way to go out on one’s shield.
“My strategy is to go right to the people and convey a message through social media and the free press that the party is built on principles not on Phil Murphy’s money,” Lesniak told InsiderNJ as he certified his candidacy Thursday afternoon.
“There’s no turning back now,” he added.