Coughlin wins vote
to run for Assembly
BY KATHY CHANG
WOODBRIDGE — After what Middlesex County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo called a “tough choice,” the 272 committee members who came out last night voted for Craig J. Coughlin as their choice to run for the District 19 Assembly race this November.
The 51-year-old former South Amboy councilman and former municipal court judge in Edison won the majority of the votes, receiving 170 of the 272 ballots that were cast at a special vote convention held at The Forge Inn on Sept. 2.
“I am humbled and fortunate to be here, considering the tough and such talented opposition that I have faced,” said Coughlin after it was announced that he won the nomination from the Democratic committee.
Coughlin, who announced his interest in the seat on Aug. 25, was one of three names that the 272 committee members chose from. Jean Pierce, of Woodbridge, a health care professional, and former longtime Superior Court Judge Mathias Rodriguez, of Perth Amboy, had put their names in the running for the seat.
In the end, Rodriguez received 77 votes and Pierce received 25 votes.
Coughlin joked that he was grateful to be given the chance to break the barrier of having to be over 6 feet 4 inches tall to be an assemblyman in the 19th District. He stands between 5 feet 8 and 5 feet 9 inches tall, whereas all the assemblymen in the 19th District are over 6 feet tall.
His comments brought laughter from the crowd.
This is Coughlin’s first bid for the Assembly seat, which opened after South Amboy Mayor John O’Leary announced he was withdrawing from the race, saying that the recent anonymous attacks against him have forced him out of his first Assembly bid.
In June, O’Leary had publicly condemned the person or persons responsible for the anonymous attacks.
In his candidacy for state Assembly, Coughlin will be the party’s replacement for former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas, who was indicted in March on charges that include bid rigging and theft. Vas has remained an assemblyman despite the charges. He will run alongside Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
The 19th District consists of Carteret, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Amboy and Woodbridge. Currently, the district is represented by Wisniewski, Vas and Sen. Joseph Vitale, of Woodbridge.
Wisniewski, Vitale and O’Leary were on hand to congratulate Coughlin.
Also in the crowd of more than 300 people were Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac, District 18 Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, and several other Democratic dignitaries from the 19th District.
Coughlin, a resident of the Fords section of the township, has lived and worked in the 19th District his entire life. His first elected position was a seat on the South Amboy Board of Education in 1983, which he held for four years, and then he was elected to the South Amboy Borough Council, where he served from 1987 to 1992.
He is an attorney and served as a municipal judge in Edison from 2005 until his announcement to run for the Assembly seat.
The Democrats are being challenged for the Assembly seat by Republicans Peter Kothari, of Woodbridge, who is a local businessman, and his running mate Richard Piatkowski, of Perth Amboy.
Dr. Barry Adler, of Woodbridge, a local veterinarian, and Jim Poesi, of Woodbridge, are running as independent candidates.