Ray Lesniak backed Charlotte DeFilippo for Union County chair in 1995 over the entreaties of some of his allies in Elizabeth, who reminded him that DeFilippo and Lesniak didn’t have the best political history.
The bad blood went back to the 1980 Elizabeth Mayor’s race. Tom Dunn was running for reelection, and DeFilippo backed establishment Democrat David Conti. Lesniak jumped into that local race and split the vote, coming in second and infuriating insiders like DeFilippo who had banked on Conti dislodging Dunn.
The mayor won reelection by 276 votes.
Years later, Lesniak’s brain trust reminded him of the 1980 mayor’s race and warned him about the danger of empowering DeFilippo. “She is not one of your people,” they told me, the senator told InsiderNJ. “What I told them was ‘if I support her, I have no doubt she will be loyal. She is the best person.”
The relationship proved durable, and lasted for two decades.