Six years of retirement might be enough for former State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who remains interested in making a political comeback next year in a run for Congress against freshman Republican Thomas Kean, Jr. in New Jersey’s 7th district.
Lesniak launched a trial balloon last month, telling the New Jersey Globe he was contemplating a congressional bid.
Now it seems that he’s stepping up the exploratory phase to take on Kean in what could be among the most closely-watched House races in the nation in 2024.
“I’ll be meeting this month with community leaders who advocate for the issues that shaped my political career and life and which I championed in the New Jersey Legislature—environmental protection, social justice, LGBTQ rights, animal welfare, gun control, economic development, and job creation,” he told gambling news website on Thursday.
A former New Jersey Democratic State Chairman, Lesniak served in the legislature from 1978 until 2018, when he gave up his seat to seek the 2017 Democratic nomination for governor.
Since then, he’s been involved with the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership at Kean University and has focused on his philanthropic and progressive endeavors.
The architect of legal sports betting in New Jersey told Gambling911 that he began thinking about running for Congress after a trip to Poland, where he brought toys, clothing, and IPads to orphan refugees from Ukraine.
“The plight of the orphans and of the people of Ukraine got me to thinking about running for Congress to present a stronger voice on their behalf and to combat the shortsighted, selfish movement by many Republicans to end our support for Ukraine in its fight against Putin’s invasion,” he said.
Lesniak, 76, also said he would move into the 7th if he runs.
“I’ve represented Linden and Rahway, which are in the congressional district, and there are many wonderful towns throughout it that I know very well,” Lesniak.
Kean won a rematch with Democrat Tom Malinowski in 2022 after a new map added more Republican territory. He unseated the two-term incumbent by three percentage points.
So far, no Democrats have entered the race to take on Kean – most are waiting to see if Malinowski decides to run again – although some, including former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Jim Johnson and Assemblyman Roy Freiman, have ruled out running.
If he enters the race, Lesniak indicated that his campaign would focus on restoring the state and local tax deduction, a federal law that codifies Roe v. Wade, increased gun control laws, and social justice issues.
“I don’t shy away from fighting uphill battles for social justice,” Lesniak said.