John Wisniewski just became a viable candidate for governor.
Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski is being named New Jersey chairman of the Bernie Sanders campaign, in what might be the smartest move by any potential contender in the 2017 gubernatorial race to succeed Republican Chris Christie.
When Sanders dresses down Wall Street Tuesday, Wisniewski will be at his side, and as his insurgent campaign for the presidency becomes an organization in New Jersey, the lawmaker stands to inherit a formidable structure just one year before he needs it to secure the gubernatorial nomination.
Unlike millionaire Phil Murphy or Senate President Steve Sweeney, Wisniewski has until now been widely considered a second tier contender to replace Christie. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has been directly criticized for using taxpayer money to build a base of support for his statewide candidacy, but that weakness of character had not diminished the perception that he was making the right political moves.
Among competitors with vast sums of cash or manpower enabling them to pursue the race with brute force, only Senator Ray Lesniak — another former state Democratic Party chairman running without the kind of assets typically relied upon to make people governors– shared a strategy as enigmatic as Wisniewski’s.
Even as he led the infamous Bridgegate investigation that turned Christie’s approval ratings upside down, few observers saw Wisniewski with the resources to cut into the battle among titans, who come with millions of dollars or an army of political workers.
Now, that has changed.
Now it appears that Wisniewski may begin his campaign to succeed Christie with an ally in the White House, but if not, then he will command an organization of inspired activists who learn campaign skills because they share faith that America still works.
Sanders is leading a kind of revolution not seen in America since the youthful John F. Kennedy toppled an existing political structure and motivated a generation freshly returned from World War II to undertake peacetime public service.
Taking a key role in that effort could propel Wisniewski to the front of a pack in which he has been mentioned but previously was seen trailing.
With Murphy, Sweeney, and Fulop among the political establishment backing Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency, Wisniewski’s endorsement of he underdog opens the possibility of breaking him out of a lackluster field.
He may yet have a tough time capturing the ‘organization line’ in his home county and struggle to amass a war chest with as many millions of dollars as some of his foes, but Wisniewski stands to command an army of progressive activists whose ignorance of political reality enables them to achieve the impossible.
Anyone who was not taking the Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman seriously in the 2017 race for governor must adopt a new perspective.
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