Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

The State's Winners and Losers in 2015

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

The State's Winners and Losers in 2015

Article excerpt

EACH YEAR, as new resolutions are contemplated, decorations are packed away, and gifts are exchanged, we take a look at New Jersey's political landscape and assess the winners and the losers of the year.

WINNERS

* Lou Stellato: The Bergen County Democratic Organization chairman has turned what was once the riddled-with-in-fighting minority party in the county into a relatively well-organized political machine that regularly wins majorities. Stellato's time- tested success in Bergen means that, as in the '90s and early '00s, Bergen is the bellwether county in the state. And given the fact that Bergen is the most populous county - well, that makes Stellato kingmaker in statewide races.

* Governor Christie: The year started out as a tough one for the governor. Drowning in a sea of single-digit poll numbers, Christie's cries for help were continuously drowned out by Donald Trump's beach party. But as the year concludes, Christie has what appears to be a bit of the "big mo" on his side - he's looking good in New Hampshire, and starting to gain a bit of traction in the South. As people start to look away from Trump's lunacy, Christie's comparatively mild-mannered in-your-face style may be appealing to voters.

* Steve Fulop: The Jersey City mayor and likely gubernatorial candidate continues to be the most envied politician in the state. Crime is down; development, employment and real estate values are increasing. Diverse millennials flock to the city for its hip restaurants, shops, parks and community programs, and mayors throughout the state seek his advice on how they can turn their cities around. State legislators running for governor in 2017 need to distance themselves from their role in putting New Jersey in the dire fiscal straits that it's in. Fulop can point voters to his City on the Hill.

* Ray Lesniak: State Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Elizabeth, continues to work for New Jersey's interest in his tireless fight against the Christie administration's settlement with Exxon Mobil. It's been a bloody battle, and Lesniak has fought valiantly. He also managed to finally wrest control of the Elizabeth school board away from foe Rafael Fajardo - an inside-baseball win if ever there was one, but it was very important to Lesniak personally.

* Josh Gottheimer: Josh Gottheimer is yet to be introduced to the voters of New Jersey's 5th Congressional District, which consists of parts of Bergen, Sussex and Warren counties. But Gottheimer, who will be Rep. Scott Garrett's likely general election opponent in 2016, has capitalized on some of Garrett's mistakes to raise more campaign funds this year than the powerful incumbent congressman, who has seen his own fundraising ability dwindle.

* Newly elected members of the state Assembly: In the first legislative district (all the way at the bottom of the state) the protege of state Sen. …

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