Draft Rocco Mazza for State Assembly in LD36

Assemblyman Fred Scalera resigned his seat today in order to take a position in the private sector, which in and of itself is refreshing, considering the fact that many of his colleagues in the State Assembly and the State Senate hold other part-time and full-time jobs in addition to their “part-time” legislative positions, regardless of any conflicts of interest that these other jobs might create.

Scalera’s resignation creates a vacancy in the State Assembly that will be filled via a special election whereby all of the County Committeepersons in LD36 will vote.  The only name that has been floated to date as a replacement for Scalera is that of Essex County Undersheriff Kevin Ryan who is from Scalera’s hometown of Nutley.  LD36 State Senator Paul Sarlo State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) is noncommittal regarding the name of Scalera’s replacement, but believes that it should be someone from Nutley.

“That is a Nutley seat,” said Sarlo. “With the current makeup of the district, it’s a longstanding tradition to have an Essex, Passaic and Bergen representative. Essex County will have the ability to pick an interim successor.

What is interesting about Sarlo’s position is that it has been widely reported throughout the blogosphere that in his role as a member of the legislative redistricting commission, he has been working overtime to remove Nutley as well as possibly Passaic to shield himself from a general election challenge from former LD36 Assemblyman and gubernatorial candidate, Paul DiGaetano, and a primary challenge from LD36 Assemblyman Gary Schaer whose hometown of Passaic has more County Committeepersons than any other municipality in the district.

If Nutley were removed from LD36 through redistricting, different sources have theorized that it could find itself attached to LD28, LD29, LD34, or possibly even LD40. If the vacant seat goes to someone backed by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, it is very likely it would mean the end of the line for one of the incumbent Assemblypersons from Essex County.  If I had to guess, that person would most likely be Cleopatra Tucker as LD28 shifts further out of Newark and further into the adjoining suburbs.  The other possible target could be LD28 State Senator Ron Rice Sr., who has been on Steve Adubato’s hit list for some time now.

Sarlo appears to be the only South Bergen politician who believes in the Bergen/Essex/Passaic distribution of LD36 legislative, particularly as Sarlo works towards creating an all-Bergen LD36.  There is no shortage of ambitious politicians in South Bergen who may want to vy for one of the two Assembly seats that Sarlo’s manuevering could open up as well as Sarlo’s State Senate, which might explain why Sarlo would be resistent to elevating one of these would-be contenders to an Assembly seat that would enhance their ability to raise money for an Assembly re-election campaign or a primary challenge against Sarlo.

Being someone who believes in the Democratic process and does not think that this vacancy should be used to give one person an advantage over the many qualified contenders that an all-Bergen LD36 primary election would attract, I would like to advocate for the candidacy of someone who has personally expressed to me no interest whatsoever in running for this or any other LD36 office now or in the future, making him the perfect caretaker candidate, enabling the rest of the field of candidates to compete with each other next year on a level playing field.

I first met Rocco Mazza during Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign in 2003 and have been friends with him ever since.  He personally solicited the endorsement of Bergen County Freeholder, James Carroll, and introduced me to then-Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg, who was one of the most visually and vocally responsive people in attendance at the 2003 NJDSC Conference in Atlantic City.  Shortly afterwards, Rocco and I had a sitdown with then-Assemblywoman Weinberg and solicited her endorsement, which came well ahead of Governor McGreevey and the rest of the state’s Democratic establishment later that year.

Many of you know Rocco either from his work in support of then-Assemblywoman Weinberg’s rise to the State Senate as well as then-Bergen County Freeholder Valerie Vainieri-Huttle’s rise to the State Assembly and their combined efforts with Assemblyman Gordon Johnson to establish the Real Bergen County Democrats in their battles against the BCDO and its former boss, Joe Ferriero.  Others know Rocco from his work as Senator Weinberg’s aide and confidant on the campaign trail as she ran as former Governor Corzine’s Lieutenant Governor running mate in 2009.

Rocco Mazza is one of the most, if not the most, genuine and honest people that I have met in the decade-plus that I have been involved in NJ politics, which isn’t necessarily saying much, considering the fact that I could probably count the number of truly genuine and honest NJ politicians and political operatives on no more than two hands, but that aside, Rocco is a truly special person who I believe should be the Bergen County caretaker/unity candidate for State Assembly in LD36.

If you know Rocco and agree with me that he should be drafted to run in the upcoming special election for this office, I strongly encourage you to share this diary on Facebook and every other social networking medium that you might use to create a viral movement in support of his reluctant, if not outright resistant candidacy.  If you are one of Rocco’s Facebook friends, join me in posting this diary on his wall until he relents and throws his name into the hat.

Comments (12)

  1. southernbluedog

    I don’t argue the fact that Rocco is a genuine and honest person.  He’s never done anything (that I’m aware of) to prove any different.

    However, Rocco is one of the biggest supporters of Governor Christie and Executive-elect Kathleen Donovan.  To his credit, he thinks his support of those two is the right thing and he doesn’t care what others think of that.  He stands up for what he believes in, and he doesn’t back down.

    But do we, as progressives, want another Christie lover to be in office?  I surely don’t.  Yes, Id rather have a Democrat hold that seat instead of a Republican.  But at what price?

    Rocco is very easy to talk to, and does consider all sides of an issue when an opposing view is brought to his attention.  I excuse his support of Donovan because of their long history of friendship with each other.  I just can’t get over how in love he is with our governor.

  2. carolh
  3. Nick Lento

    …and I have to agree with all of the good words you speak in his favor as a person, the guy is indeed a peach!    His efforts to clean up the BCDO along with Loretta Weinberg, Valerie Vanieri-Huttle and Gordon Johnson (along with lots of other activists like Carol Hoernlein, Steven Goldstein, Paul Eisenman etc etc etc) were magnificent!

    I can forgive Rocco his affection for Sarah Palin…she can be charming and is attractive (in a picture)….but I am so sad/disappointed about his evident crush on Christie as a leader.  

    I continue to see Christie as an ethically flawed hypocritical bully who came out of machine politics and bought his job in the Bush administration by raising lots of money early on.   It still bothers me that a fine and decent man like Jon Corzine wasn’t willing/able to dig deeply into his own gut and take the bully down.

    I understand the dynamic of why Christie is popular.  On the surface he comes across as a “strong man”…and most voters never got past the surface.    Unfortunately for NJ (see Adam L’s diary above  http://www.bluejersey.com/show… )  Christie is essentially a fraud.

    Like Rocco, I give Christie points on his ability to communicate his POV effectively and with a kind of coarse power.    But Ronald Reagan was also an effective communicator who had a terrible policy agenda…and one that wound up harming our nation in ways that continue to reverberate.

    If the ultimate choice in LD36 comes down to a Tea Party Republican and Rocco Mazza……obviously Rocco is the preferred candidate….but it is my hope that the Democratic committee-people of LD36 will appoint someone at least as progressive/honest/decent as Rocco and who is NOT an avid devotee of/apologist for Governor Christie.

  4. Senator Loretta Weinberg

    about his current adoration of our Governor. But Rocco is one of the best people I know. He’s honest, has a strong moral center, unafraid, and  progressively issue oriented.  I spent almost 14 hours a day in a car with him during the Gubernatorial election. You get to know someone pretty well under those circumstances. So Chris Christie aside, I have complete faith in Rocco always making a decision based on what he thinks is the really right thing to do.  I also know that sooner or later, he’ll come to understand the downside of our Governor’s “over the top”, “It’s my way or the highway” personality! And even if he doesn’t, he’s my friend for life!

  5. Joebluejersey11

    As a follow up to high praise of Progressive Warrior Rocco Mazza. After Donovan won the election, she cuts millions in College assistance, cut Meals on Wheels and even hired Rocco Mazza to a 6 figure newly created Patronage job in her Republican Administration.

    How many times will it take before the Progressives realize they were scammed?


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