A native of Elizabeth, the 71-year old Lesniak is a 39-year veteran of the state Legislature who has served in the Senate since 1983 and currently chairs the Economic Growth Committee.
Lesniak was born in a part of Elizabeth he describes as “poor,” the son of a father who only had an eighth-grade education but worked his way up to become a manager at a chemical plant. Lesniak was drafted and served in the military from 1967 to 1969, and then went on to graduate from Rutgers University in 1971 with a degree in economics. He then received his law degree from St. John’s University and went on to co-found the Weiner Lesniak law firm, which is well-known throughout the state.
Lesniak won his first election to the General Assembly in 1977, and was elected to the State Senate in 1983.
During his long career in the senate, Lesniak has championed many progressive causes, including marriage equality, abolition of the death penalty, expanding a drug treatment program to include multiple offenders, and landmark environmental policies. He has also sponsored animal rights legislation and sought to legalize sports betting in New Jersey. Lesniak has been a force for a number of other issues, including those involving economic development and affordable housing.
Lesniak chaired the state Democratic committee between 1992 and 1994 and chaired the Clinton/Gore and Gore/Lieberman campaigns in the state.
He is proud, as he announced at a recent candidates’ forum, to have won the Memorial de Caen International Human Rights Award for his speech “The Road to Justice and Peace” in 2009. The award is for a competition among lawyers from several countries.
Lesniak is well-known for his candor, and has been running what is often described as an “unconventional” campaign.
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