The Jersey City LGBTQ community had a chance to meet Democratic gubernatorial candidates Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), state Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20), former U.S. Treasury Department official Jim Johnson and political newcomer Paul Binetti at a town hall event at Transmission.
Co-hosted by Garden State Equality and Jersey City Stands, with LGBTQ activist Michael Billy serving as the moderator, Johnson said during the early portion of the program that his first actions as governor would include state ethics reform.
“For me, one of the first things that needs to happen in this state is that we need to have serious ethics reform, because without true ethics in democracy, all the things we want to achieve are gonna be held up the way they’ve been held up for so many years.”
“Issues like the $15 minimum wage: help up, not because it was bad policy, but because people had other priorities like making sure that Gov. Christie had an opportunity to write a book after Bridgegate,” Johnson exclaimed.
Also a former federal prosecutor who has qualified for matching funds in the gubernatorial content, Johnson has served on the transition teams of Gov. Jim McGreevey, Gov. Jon Corzine and President Barack Obama.
On the topic of avoiding gerrymandering, Wisniewksi stated he plans on using the model employed in California that includes a permanent citizens redistricting committee.
“I’m working on draft legislation now that would use the model that has been successfully employed in California, where they have a permanent citizens redistricting committee,” the Middlesex County Assemblyman said.
“The good news in that is it takes legislators off that process, it takes politicians off that process and turns it over to citizens.”
He added that while there were some concerns this would lead to a less progressive legislature, the exact opposite was the case in California.
While Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), (the first openly gay member of the state Legislature) is not running for governor, he served as a surrogate for Phil Murphy and argued that a candidate should not automatically be disqualified due to wealth.
However, Wisniewski and Binetti, the latter the manger of popular gay club Feathers in River Edge, were both unimpressed and fired shots at Murphy.
Lesniak, a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, explained that he would fully support educational programs about the struggles of LGBTQ youth.
“Some of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever heard have been about LGBT folks who have been rejected by their families. As a matter of fact, David Mixner told me about how he was asked by his friend who was dying to tell his parents that he was dying of AIDS,” Lesniak began.
“To tell his parents to come to see him. And then he had to tell him that they refused … I’ve had just recently two families whose one son and one daughter came out, young, youth. And they were just like ‘of course,’ it was like nothing happened.”
On the same topic, Binetti, who is openly gay, said it’s not just the youth who need to be educated, but all age groups – especially those in power.