Raymond Lesniak

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Raymond Lesniak
Member of the New Jersey Senate
from the 20th Legislative District
Assumed office
June 16, 1983
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 20th Legislative District
In office
January 12, 1982 – June 16, 1983
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
from the 21st Legislative District
In office
January 10, 1978 – January 12, 1982
Personal details
Born (1946-05-07) May 7, 1946 (age 68)
Political party Democratic
Residence Elizabeth, New Jersey
Alma mater A.B. Rutgers University (Economics)
J.D. St. John's University School of Law
Occupation Attorney
Website Legislative web page

Raymond J. "Ray" Lesniak (born May 7, 1946) is an American Democratic Party politician, who has been serving in the New Jersey State Senate since 1983, where he represents the 20th Legislative District. Before entering New Jersey's upper house, the Senate, Lesniak served in the General Assembly from 1978 to 1983.[1] Lesniak is considered a major power broker in the Democratic Party in Union County.[2]

Lesniak was defeated by incumbent Elizabeth Mayor Thomas G. Dunn, whom he challenged in the 1980 Democratic primary election. Dunn scored about 7,100 votes to Lesniak's 6,600 while about 2,000 went to David Conti, the challenger who came 276 votes away from toppling Dunn in 1976 and was (in 1980) endorsed by the Regular Democratic Organization of Union County.

Subsequently, Dunn orchestrated Lesniak's removal from the 'party line' -- a preferred ballot position aligned with almost all other incumbents—when it was time for the lawmaker to seek re-election to the General Assembly in 1981. Party leaders did not inform Lesniak about his loss of support until two days before the petition filing deadline. Elizabeth Health Director John Surmay was selected to replace Lesniak on the ballot between Sen. John T. Gregorio and Assemblyman Thomas J. Deverin, his prior running mates.

Building on the organization assembled during his race for mayor, the Elizabeth Democratic Association, Lesniak waged an aggressive campaign with support from organized labor, environmentalists, minority communities and others. On June 6, 1981, Lesniak won renomination with approximately 20% more than the number of votes cast for Deverin and almost twice as many ballots as Dunn's proxy, Surmay.[3]

In a June 1983 special election, Lesniak won the Senate seat of John T. Gregorio who was forced to vacate his office after being convicted of hiding his ownership of a pair of Linden go-go bars.[4]

Lesniak serves on the Economic Growth Committee (as Chair), Commerce Committee (as Vice-Chair), the Legislative Services Commission, the Judiciary Committee and the Legislative Oversight Committee.[1]

Lesniak has also been involved in national politics over the course of his tenure. In 1996, he was Chairman of the New Jersey Clinton-Gore Presidential Campaign, and in 2000 he was a key insider in the Al Gore campaign. Lesniak served as Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, and Chairman of the 1997 Jim McGreevey campaign for Governor of New Jersey.

Lesniak grew up in Elizabeth, NJ. He served in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1969 and received an A.B. from Rutgers University in Economics in 1971, and a J.D. from St. John's University School of Law in 1974.[1]

He is an attorney with the firm of Weiner Lesniak.[1]

Lesniak is ethnically Polish. Although he was raised a Roman Catholic, he is now an evangelical Christian.[5]

First BankAmericano directorship[edit]

On February 9, 2010, The Wall Street Journal published a copy of a letter[6] from Senator Robert Menendez to the Federal Reserve pushing for approval of a deal for the sale of First BankAmericano of Elizabeth where State Senator Lesniak served on the Board of Directors.[7] A media controversy arose due to BankAmericano’s political connections. Its board members included several major campaign contributors to Menendez — among them State Senator Lesniak. Following the media controversy over the bailout request, it was disclosed that Lesniak had also received "insider loans" from the bank.[8] Prior to the bailout request, First BankAmericano had been under financial pressure for more than a year because of mounting loan losses. A highly critical report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.(FDIC) also found the institution had engaged in unsafe or unsound banking practices, including "operating without adequate supervision by its board of directors", an excessive level of delinquent or bad loans, inadequate earnings and insufficient coverage of its assets.[9]

District 20[edit]

Each of the forty districts in the New Jersey Legislature has one representative in the New Jersey Senate and two members in the New Jersey General Assembly. The other representatives from the 20th District for the 2012-2013 Legislative Session are:[10]

Election history[edit]

New Jersey State Senate elections, 2011[11]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Raymond J. Lesniak (incumbent) 12,510 75.5%
Republican Helen S. Rosales 4,052 24.5%
Democratic hold
New Jersey State Senate elections, 2007[12]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Raymond J. Lesniak (incumbent) 9,760 58.7%
Republican Linda Gaglione 4,478 26.9%
Independent Stanley J. Moskal 2,397 14.4%
Democratic hold


  1. ^ a b c d Senator Lesniak's legislative webpage, New Jersey Legislature. Accessed February 14, 2008.
  2. ^ http://www.politickernj.com/max/32791/despite-polls-lesniak-confident-blue-state-coupled-christie-stumbles
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ 1983 Special Elections to Fill Vacancies in the State Legislature", State of New Jersey. Accessed July 15, 2010.
  5. ^ Jones, Richard Lezin. "State Senator Who Combines Donations, Law Practice and Influence ", The New York Times, January 9, 2006. Accessed April 18, 2008. "'It had to do with a loss of control and a need to have control,' said Mr. Lesniak, who was raised as a Roman Catholic.... His status as an evangelical Christian and the founder of an antipoverty group called Democrats for the Soul has enhanced his power."
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez defends bailout request for struggling BankAmericano in Elizabeth, The Star-Ledger, February 9, 2010
  8. ^ Lesniak, other insiders got loans at failed bank
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ Legislative Roster 2012-2013 Session, New Jersey Legislature. Accessed June 22, 2012.
  11. ^ Official List Candidate Returns for State Senate For November 2011 General Election, New Jersey Department of State, December 14, 2011. Accessed June 22, 2012.
  12. ^ Official List Candidate Returns for State Senate For November 2007 General Election, New Jersey Department of State, December 3, 2007. Accessed June 22, 2012.

External links[edit]