New front-runner in N.J. speaker race

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A new front-runner emerged Wednesday in the battle to be one of the two most powerful lawmakers in Trenton, as Democrat Craig Coughlin declared that he had enough support to become the next speaker of the New Jersey Assembly.


Coughlin, 59, of Middlesex County, said he had won commitments from half the 52-member Democratic caucus, plus two Democratic candidates who are likely to win in November. The current speaker, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto of Hudson County, was elected to the leadership position in 2013.

The state Assembly speaker and Senate president are the most powerful lawmakers in the Legislature. They decide which bills get posted for votes, assign committee chairmanships, and negotiate directly with the governor.


“I am truly humbled by the support, encouragement and commitment that so many of my colleagues have openly displayed over the last few months since I have undertaken this journey,” Coughlin said in a statement as he officially announced his candidacy for speaker.

Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin

Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, where all 120 seats are up for election in November. Lawmakers will elect their leaders following the November election.





Coughlin’s ascendancy would be a win for South Jersey Democrats, who have clashed with Prieto on issues such as school funding and the state takeover of Atlantic City.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) says he intends to seek another term as leader of the Senate, and his allies say he has the support to win.

Prieto, who announced last week that he would seek another term as speaker, said Wednesday, “At this time I believe our party should be focused on helping Phil Murphy secure the Democratic nomination and ultimately become our next governor.”

Prieto said Coughlin’s announcement that he had locked up support to be the next speaker was “premature.”

Democrats currently hold a 52-28 advantage in the Assembly. Coughlin released a list of 28 supporters: 26 lawmakers and two candidates considered likely to win in November.





















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1 Philadelphia

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