WOODBRIDGE—Middlesex County Democratic Committee members from Woodbridge, Perth Amboy, Carteret, Sayreville and South Amboy selected former Edison Municipal Court Judge Craig Coughlin of Woodbridge as the State Assembly candidate to in the 19th District.
Coughlin replaces South Amboy Mayor John O’Leary, who withdrew from the campaign after anonymous accusations concerning his business and family were circulated. O’Leary has pledged to identify the people responsible for defaming him to restore his reputation for integrity.
Coughlin was supported by O’Leary, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac, and Carteret Mayor Dan Reiman, while Coughlin’s wife is state Sen. Joe Vitale’s campaign treasurer.
A Woodbridge lawyer who previously served as a councilman in South Amboy and as Carteret’s borough attorney, Coughlin won the three-way race on first ballot with 170 votes.
The vote was a setback for Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, who wanted the nomination to go to former Superior Court Judge Mathias ‘Eddie’ Rodriguez, who resides in her municipality and came up with only 77 votes.
Jean Pierce, a health care professional from Woodbridge, appeared before the committee but she received only 25 votes.
Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman Joe Spicuzzo and Assemblyman John Wisniewski of Sayreville had been linked to stories about recruiting Rodriguez, who was then a Middlesex County Superior Court Judge, since as early as June, long before O’Leary decided to back out as the nominee.
The seat is currently held by Perth Amboy resident Joseph Vas, who was ousted as mayor by Diaz last year and opted against seeking re-election to the Legislature after he was indicted on federal and state corruption charges.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, two high-ranking party leaders say they are concerned that Wisniewski admitted to discussing a possible business deal involving Solomon Dwek in a conversation with Assemblyman Harvey Smith, the Jersey City politician who was among 44 people arrested in the FBI’s summer sweep.
Wisniewski turned down the offer to work for Dwek, who was later identified as a federal cooperating witness, but he never reported his suspicions to law enforcement authorities.
Wisniewski acknowledged that he’s interested in replacing Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts of Camden, who announced that he is not seeking another term.
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