POLITICS

Ray Lesniak Backs Richard Codey For New Jersey Governor

01/07/2013 11:12 am ET | Updated Jan 07, 2013

A powerful New Jersey state senator has taken to Facebook to push a former Democratic governor to challenge Gov. Chris Christie (R), calling him New Jersey's Democrats' "Obi Wan Kenobi."

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) posted on Facebook Sunday that he wanted former Gov. Richard Codey, currently a state senator, to enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary for the right to take on Christie in November. PolitickerNJ.com, which first reported Lesniak's Facebook post on Sunday, reported that Codey said in November that he would consider a gubernatorial campaign this year. State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) is the only Democrat to enter the governor's race against Christie, who is enjoying a 72-percent approval rating following his work on Hurricane Sandy.

Codey for Governor? Christie's style has vaulted his popularity, but Codey has style also. Christie's feisty style has overshadowed his support for Romney and his policies that would cut taxes on the wealthy while putting added burdens on everyone else. Honk if you like Codey for Governor. Now that Corey Booker has chosen not to run, Codey is our Obi Wan Kenobi.

Booker, the mayor of Newark, announced last month that the will run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 instead of the governorship this year. Lesniak's reference to "Star Wars" character Obi Wan Kenobi could be interpreted as saying Codey is the Democrats' "only hope."

Lesniak's public support for Codey could end the gubernatorial hopes of Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage (D), a close Lesniak ally. Lesniak, a former state Democratic Party chairman, is the most powerful Democrat in Union County and would be able to give the county party's backing to Codey. Bollwage told HuffPost last month that he would not run if he did not receive backing from powerful party leaders.

Codey, a state senator since 1982, has served as New Jersey's governor twice since 2000, due to his service as state Senate president from 2002 to 2010. He served 14 months as the Garden State's chief executive following the resignation of Gov. Jim McGreevey (D) in 2004. In the closing days of his term, Codey signed legislation changing his title from acting governor to governor.

Codey also held the governorship for three and a half days in January 2002 due to a quirk in the state's constitution and the 2001 resignation of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Codey was part of New Jersey's five governors in a week in 2002, along with Republicans Donald DiFrancesco, John Farmer and John Bennett and McGreevey.

Codey did not seek a full gubernatorial term in 2005 despite approval ratings over 70 percent. Codey rocketed to stardom in early 2005 when he told a radio shock jock that "if I weren’t governor, I would take him outside," following the shock jock's criticism of Codey's wife's struggle with postpartum depression.

Codey was New Jersey's acting governor for a month in 2007 while Gov. Jon Corzine (D) was hospitalized. Codey was ousted as Senate president in 2010 by fellow Democrat Steve Sweeney of West Deptford, who is also considering a gubernatorial bid.

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