NJTV Correspondent David Cruz spoke with Assemblyman John Wisniewski who this week announced that he will be running for governor.
Cruz: Thanks for taking some time with us, assemblyman.
Wisniewski: David, thanks for the opportunity to be with you.
Cruz: So yesterday Phil Murphy had this big to do, spent a lot of money on it. You could probably use some of that money in your run?
Wisniewski: Well this is an election about talking to the people of the state of New Jersey, not about cocktail parties in Atlantic City. New Jersey needs transformative leadership, not transactional leadership. We’ve seen where that’s taken this state and we need a new style of leadership and I believe with the message that I’m talking about — Main Street values — New Jersey’s going to understand that the kind of leadership I will provide with 21 years of experience in the Legislature is the kind of leadership that can move New Jersey forward.
Cruz: This announcement, you might not be surprised to learn, was not received incredibly warmly by your Democratic colleagues. Are you estranged a little bit from the state’s party?
Wisniewski: Well listen, my colleagues in the Democratic Party who have already prejudged this election, they’re certainly free to make those decisions but they’re not the ultimate deciders in who becomes the Democratic nominee. There are thousands of New Jersey voters who have yet to have their voices heard. We’ve yet to have a robust debate about the ideas that are important to our state and how do we move our state forward and I look forward to engaging in that debate and giving the voters of New Jersey a choice. We’ve seen what happens when we have a coronation process in selecting candidates. It hasn’t turned out so well. We’ve seen what’s happened in the past when we’ve had Wall Street values in the governor’s office and it didn’t turn out so well.
Cruz: Let’s pick up on that right there, this is not the first time you’ve referred to Wall Street whenever you’ve talked about Phil Murphy. Are you suggesting that there’s some sort of disconnect between someone who’s kind of, not bought his way into office, but has thrown his money around to get his name recognition up at least?
Wisniewski: Sure, Ambassador Murphy has spent a lot of money building name recognition. I understand why he’s had to do that, but I’m not concerned about what he’s doing. I’m concerned about the people of the state of New Jersey and the middle class who feel like they have no voice. The people of the state of New Jersey who have seen our state leaderless for such a long period of time who want leadership that understands Main Street values and understands that this is not a coronation but this is a contest of ideas and I look forward to engaging in that debate as we move forward through the primary.
Cruz: Let me ask you a couple quick questions and get quick answers from you, if that’s possible. Lightning round except imagine a bell is ringing right now. So on this Atlantic City takeover, are you comfortable with Jeff Chiesa taking over that effort?
Wisniewski: Listen, the state of New Jersey has never shown itself able to take over a school district, let alone a municipality. I’m not in favor of the state of New Jersey coming in and dictating to the elected officials and the people of Atlantic City how they should run their municipality. We obviously need to work better and do better and Mayor [Don] Guardian understands that, but I think that leadership should come from within the community.
Cruz: Legal fees for your committee as well as the investigation into the governor, the Mastro Report. Now you’re talking about you want your money back. You want your money back. What are people at home to believe — $11 million, $12 million spent on this investigation and it seems the biggest target, which is Christie, is kind of walking away.
Wisniewski: Well most of the money was spent by the governor himself defending himself. I mean, he paid for the Mastro Report, which was a vanity report that tried to clear him. The Mastro firm was also defending the governor’s office at the same time with regard to subpoenas that were delivered. Look, it was an egregious use of state money. The legislative investigation was a tenth of the expense and it was the legislative investigation that uncovered this in the first place, that ultimately led to a trial with two convictions.
Cruz: Let me ask you a couple quick questions also on cannabis legalization. Are you for it?
Wisniewski: I’m for it. I think that we see the results of the backward policy we’ve had in this state and too many people being incarcerated for minor infractions that ruin people’s lives. We’ve seen the way this has been run in other states and there’s an opportunity here for New Jersey. We need to be brave enough to embrace that opportunity.
Cruz: Do you think Kim Guadagno will be a formidable opponent if she were to run from an incumbency?
Wisniewski: Well it looks like she probably will be filling in for the governor at some point in time, he’ll get some kind of position within the Trump administration and you can’t take anything for granted in an election and we take her seriously as an opponent.
Cruz: All right, Assemblyman John Wiesniewski, thanks very much.