New Jerseyans who care about animal welfare should support Democrat Raymond Lesniak in the state’s gubernatorial primary on June 6. Representing the 20th legislative district, he’s an experienced hand who’s served in the state senate for over 30 years. Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, endorsed Lesniak’s bid, saying in a statement on the organization’s website, “Throughout his public service career, Senator Lesniak has been a champion and leader on animal protection issues. His efforts in New Jersey have also sparked similar bills and reforms in other states across the country.”
What are some of those efforts? Lesniak’s campaign website — the only one in the Democratic race which prominently features animal protection as an important issue — highlights a number of these. The state senator sponsored a historic bill in 2014 which made New Jersey the first state in the country to fully ban the sale and trade of ivory and rhino horns. That same year, he introduced legislation aiming to end the use of gestation crates, which was shamefully vetoed by Republican Governor Chris Christie. In 2015, Lesniak backed a bill prohibiting leg-hold traps and the shark fin trade. The following year, he sponsored legislation outlawing the ownership of endangered-animal trophies. Again, New Jersey was trailblazer, becoming only the second state in the nation to take this step.
Also, in 2016, the lawmaker introduced a bill to ban bear hunting, while a non-lethal control program was implemented. “I expect this program will be a success and there will never again be a bear hunt in New Jersey,” he wrote in a Facebook post. The same year, Lesniak sponsored legislation seeking to prohibit the use of elephants in traveling animal acts. In 2017, the state senator led the charge to outlaw puppy mills. Unfortunately, the proposed expansion of the Pet Purchase Protection Act was again vetoed by Christie. Lesniak vowed to fight for an override, telling Observer.com, “We’ll be targeting every single legislator.”
Unfortunately, the lawmaker faces an uphill battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. A Quinnipiac poll released on May 3 suggests Lesniak has the support of just 4 percent of New Jersey Democrats, with rival Phil Murphy getting 26-percent. That said, more than 52 percent of these voters are undecided. Whatever Lesniak’s chances, animal activists should support his candidacy. When reporters and pollsters start hearing voters support the state senator because of his animal-welfare positions, other candidates will take notice. As things currently stand, politicians don’t even bother to cynically appeal to people who care about animals. We need to stand up and be counted.
At a World Elephant Day event last year, Lesniak said, “Animals matter. All animals matter and we should treat them with distinction. They are here on Earth, created by the same force that created us. We should treat them with kindness and understanding — not in the way that humans are treating them today.” I urge all progressive-minded voters to support the state senator in the Democrats’ New Jersey gubernatorial primary on June 6.