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.