By David Cruz
For a party boasting about having the most progressive platform ever, Democrats in the Jersey delegation were thrown into something of a sticky political wicket this morning when Senate President Steve Sweeney boycotted the delegate breakfast over sponsor PSE&G‘s contributions to a political action committee that supports candidates like New Jersey conservative Scott Garrett.
“I think they made a mistake especially after the way Garrett’s been. They made a decision; it’s a bad business decision. I’m not going to be part of it,” Sweeney said.
Garrett has been a target of gay ire after he refused to pay his share into a GOP fund because it supported some gay candidates. Sweeney’s last-minute move had this morning’s speakers scrambling to walk a line between support of the LGBTQ community and PSE&G, which actually contributes more money to New Jersey Democrats than Republicans.
“You know, you can be a good corporation for the things that you deal with, in this case energy, which is true, but at the same time, we have to, as corporations or as individuals, to look at the larger world, to look at the larger issues that are going on here,” said Congressman Frank Pallone.
“To PSE&G, I want to thank you for sponsoring the only breakfast I’ve had this entire week and probably will only one I get. And so we may not agree on this one issue because I’ve served with Scott Garrett in the Assembly, so I’ve known him for a very long time, but you’ve been a very responsive and very responsible company as it related to my constituent needs and I look forward to working with you all in the future,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace — one of only two openly gay lawmakers in the New Jersey Legislature — was thrust into the spotlight to speak for the LGBTQ community by proxy and to repeat the party’s appreciation for one of the state’s largest and most politically active corporations. In that role, the assemblyman seemed to have thrown a strike.
“Twenty-eight years ago my husband and I adopted children. At the time, Scott Garrett was an assemblyman who went on a tear about gays not adopting,” Eustace said. “We need Congress people who are going to support all of us, all of us. You’re allowed your private thoughts. You’re allowed your private feelings, but it’s important that our congressional delegation and all of our elected officials and me as well. I support bigots, I support people who believe in other people’s rights, but it’s not good to legislate from that platform.”
“Bigotry is wrong for New Jersey and it’s wrong for the United States of America and I’m going to finish here with I want you to know that PSE&G has assured us that they will not support Scott Garrett for this election and I thank them,” Eustace continued.
“It’s great to hear that finally they got the message from what Tim Eustace said and they’re not going to support Garrett financially any more,” Sweeney said.
A reporter asked, “Did you get that on your own or is this the first you’re hearing of it?”
Sweeney replied, “I had been hearing it. If I had heard it myself, I would’ve been here and I would have actually thanked them for doing the right thing as a corporate partner.”
A statement from the congressman’s office read in part, “Steve Sweeney is … spreading lies about Congressman Scott Garrett, and he’s leveraging his official position as Senate president to help him in his run for governor. Congressman Garrett has repeatedly denied these accusations — on the record.”
Sweeney said he would’ve preferred to be at the breakfast he helped organize, but had to settle for grabbing all of the attention afterward.