Race Between Niki Trunk and Senate President Steve Sweeney Heats Up

By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
NJ Today

To see how serious Niki Trunk is about running against Steve Sweeney just look at this ad.

Trunk is a 39-year-old Salem County attorney who’s been a deputy mayor and deputy chief of staff to the state comptroller.

When asked what chance she has of defeating Sweeney, Trunk said, “I have a good chance. Look is it a David and Goliath situation, probably but the momentum is shifting.”

Senate Republican leader Tom Kean recruited Trunk. He’s backing her financially through his Senate Republican Majority PAC and says Sweeney is worried.

“He clearly knows that Niki Trunk is winning and that’s why that out of state dollars allies are coming in with millions of dollars,” Kean said. “But no amount of threatening, cajoling, bullying will return Niki Trunk. She’s the right candidate at the right time with the right message against the status quo.”

Sweeney takes the challenge seriously but says Trunk has weaknesses.

“She’s against mental health checks for guns, she’s against minimum wage. No one’s ever asked her any issues she stands on. All she says I’m bad, but what does she stand for?” Sweeney asked.

Yesterday Sweeney accused Trunk of accepting $75,000 from the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Joe Kyrillos. The contribution limit is $2,600.

Trunk’s campaign treasurer quickly took the blame for a paperwork error, but a Sweeney ally has filed a lawsuit over it.

“Your treasurer is trained by the state. You know how to submit this things and they’ve shown more money coming out of the state party into my opponent’s account than what my opponent has shown in her account. So Tom’s, he’s desperate to try to win some seats that’s clear,” Sweeney said.

Three times we asked Kean about the flap over the donation, and three times he gave this answer: “Steve Sweeney has done nothing to advance.”

Each side is calling the other desperate.

“This is a gentleman who is, built his walls in his political empire and I think he sees his walls starting to crumble,” Trunk said.

“Tom’s desperate. It’s really personal with him to a point where he can’t see straight,” Sweeney said.

Kean is standing by his earlier prediction that Republicans will take control of the Senate on election day. Sweeney says his polling shows exactly the opposite and suggests Kean will be looking foolish when all six contestant Senate seats end up remaining in Democratic hands.