Donald Trump’s firing of his campaign manager wasn’t the only political shakeup today. The New Jersey State Democratic Party has voted behind closed doors to dump Bernie Sanders State Chair John Wisniewski as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and replaced him with Hillary Clinton loyalist John Graham. We called Assemblyman Wisniewski for comment. And he agreed to sit down with Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron.
Aron: Assemblyman, were you surprised that the State Chairman John Currie knocked you out of the Democratic National Committee, effective at the end of this convention?
Wisniewski: It’s certainly his prerogative. When I was state chair I had the prerogative to make a selection and have it voted on by the state committee members. I guess what really took me by surprise was the manner in which it was done. No advanced warning. As a matter of fact, I asked his staff if that issue was going to be voted on at that meeting and I was assured that it was not. So it caught me by surprise.
Aron: How do you feel about it now?
Wisniewski: The chairman can make the decisions he wants to make. I think it represents a lost opportunity after a very interesting primary season in which supporters of Bernie Sanders very fervently hoped that he would become the Democratic nominee. Likewise, the supporters of Secretary Clinton. Now is an opportunity to bring the sides together. I think making this choice makes that harder.
Aron: He says it had nothing to do with the fact that you were the chairman of the Sanders campaign in New Jersey. Do you think there’s any connection between them? He’s clearly a Clinton supporter.
Wisniewski: I can only take him at his word. I just wish we had had a conversation.
Aron: He failed to renominate you and a woman, Reni Erdos —
Wisniewski: Both of us were Sanders supporters.
Aron: Uh huh.
Wisniewski: The only two national committee members in New Jersey to publicly endorse the senator. So, I understand what the chairman said but clearly the implication of removing both of the Sanders supporters from the national committee in one meeting, without any advanced word, really calls into question the motives behind the change.
Aron: When you were state chairman you chose not to re-nominate a couple of people. By the way there are six total members along with the chair and the vice chair who are members of the Democratic National Committee from New Jersey. I’m told that you did not reappoint Paul Bontempo and maybe June Fischer and you nominated yourself for one of those seats and that may have wrangled some people the wrong way. What’s the answer on that?
Wisniewski: Well it’s not accurate. First of all, June Fischer was replaced, that’s true. I had a conversation with her, I let you know what was coming, I let her know the reasons why. With regard to Paul Bontempo, actually Paul had taken my seat when I became the state chair. So when I became state chair you’re automatically a DNC member and Paul took my seat and then when I ceased being state chair, I went back to the seat that I had had.
Aron: You renominated yourself is what someone might say?
Aron: Did John Currie succeed you?
Wisniewski: As state chair? Yes.
Aron: How have relations between you and your successor been up to this point?
Wisniewski: Listen, I’ve always held John in high regard. I still hold him in high regard. I’m disappointed at how this was handled. I think that it’s a lost opportunity for bringing the campaigns together to having a united New Jersey delegation in Philadelphia.
Aron: He’s bringing two Clinton people to replace you and Reni Erdos — Bernadette McPherson and John Graham who’s a big fundraiser for the Clintons.
Wisniewski: Right and I think that underscores the difference between the two philosophies of Secretary Clinton and Sen. Sanders. I mean, Sen. Sanders raised $215 million from grassroots supporters and the secretary’s campaign is about raising money from large donors. The appointments reflect that philosophy.
Aron: All right, but you’ll still be delegate at the convention?
Wisniewski: I will be.
Aron: All right, thanks for talking to us, John.
Wisniewski: My pleasure.