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State Sen. Gerald Cardinale. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

GOP will wait until Cardinale funeral to set special election convention date

Senator’s death leaves Holly Schepisi unopposed for Bergen line in 39th district Senate race

By David Wildstein, February 22 2021 12:01 am

Republican county committee members in the 39th district will meet between February 27 and March 27 to pick an interim replacement for State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest), who died on Saturday at age 86.

Party leader are expected to wait until after Cardinale’s funeral mass and burial on Wednesday to announce a date for the special election convention.

The two county chairs — Jack Zisa of Bergen and Peter Murphy of Passaic — will set the date.  Passaic has three municipalities in the 39th and makes up about 15% of the vote.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) is the clear front runner to fill the remainder of Cardinale’s current Senate term.

Since Cardinale’s death came after the deadline to file a letter of intent, Schepisi is unopposed in the race for the Bergen County Republican organization line – unless Zisa decides to reopen the filing as a result of the change in circumstances.

She won the Passaic line on Saturday in a vote that took place after Cardinale’s death.

That would force any other candidate to run off the line against Shepisi in the June 8 Republican primary.

But that doesn’t assure Schepisi the interim Senate seat.

Zisa and Murphy will also decide if there will be a filing deadline before the special election convention, or if nominations will come from the floor.

If Schepisi moves to the Senate, it will set up a second special election to fill Schepisi’s Assembly seat.

It’s uncertain when the Assembly vacancy would occur, since Schepisi isn’t obligated to resign from the Assembly until she takes office as a senator.  Senate President Steve Sweeney controls that.

So, it’s not clear whether the Assembly special election convention will come before or after the Bergen GOP convention.   But it is likely that Bergen Republicans would pick the same person to replace Schepisi as they do to run for the open seat in the general election.

Passaic County Republicans voted on Saturday to endorse Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) for re-election, along with Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti for the open Assembly seat.

Azzariti had been running as part of the Schepisi ticket.  Upper Saddle River Councilwoman DeAnne DeFuccio was allied with Cardinale.

Also in the race is John Glidden, the 73-year-old mayor of Closter.

Since 2021 is a legislative election year, there will be no special election in November to fill Cardinale’s unexpired term.

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