Tonight, at the Middlesex County Democratic Organization (MCDO) convention, John Wisniewski got some measure of comeuppance for the leaked redistricting map that would have required two of the state’s most progressive Senators, Barbara Buono and Joe Vitale (both of Middlesex), to compete against each other, and carved an opportunity for Wisniewski himself to move up to the Senate. Progressive outrage after that leak rose within hours; multi-level and very public. The map, rumor had it, could be attributed to Wisniewski himself and what looked like opportunism fueled that mobilization. At this evening’s gathering of Middlesex Dems, that common perception of what happened during redistricting nearly cost John Wisniewski, state party chair and a candidate in November, the line. In his own re-election in his own home county party.
When Alan Rosenthal threw his vote behind the map proffered by the Democrats, there was jubilation in Party circles, high-fives for NJDSC Chair & redistricting co-Chair Wisniewski and a palpable air of self-satisfaction that the Democrats made Christie – who had poked his executive branch nose deep into the legislative branch’s process – lose something.
But what is a score for Democrats is not necessarily the same kind of score for progressives. There are different measuring sticks and the priorities are for more than party loyalty and a sunnier outcome for Democrats. From an infuriating Senate vote against marriage equality, to a too-cozy relationship between Chris Christie and sometimes-helpmate Democratic Senate President Sweeney, there is a sense that the Democrats have not done enough with their majority. And so it was that when that map leaked there was a one-day, multi-level, ferocious and very public expression of outrage from progressives in defense of Buono – an obvious contender for governor – and Vitale. (Disclosure, several members of the Blue Jersey staff were involved).
But while that was going on, the leaked map had what I think is a separate impact on local Democrats loyal to their own in Vitale and Buono, people they’ve worked alongside and helped develop. And so, there was actually discussion among the Buono and Vitale camps to organize to deny Wisniewski the line tonight. But, maybe because longtime MCDO Chair Joe Spicuzzo was just arrested a month ago on corruption charges something many shades less extreme took place.
In the end, the entire Woodbridge delegation abstained in a vote to endorse Wisniewski for re-election, minus Woodbridge mayor John McCormac, who is not on the county committee and didn’t vote, but made clear their position:
Woodbridge is a team, and Wisniewski’s actions threatened our teammate [Vitale], and we don’t appreciate that. It was symbolic, but it was essentially a vote of no confidence.
It remains to be seen what fissures tonight’s vote revealed or opened. Wisniewski played it all down: “Middlesex County’s fine. I don’t think there’s any lack of cohesion in Middlesex County.”