Home>Campaigns>Wirths will not seek re-election to 24th district Assembly seat

Assemblyman Harold Wirths at Gov. Phil Murphy's fiscal year 2023 budget address delivered on March 8, 2022. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe).

Wirths will not seek re-election to 24th district Assembly seat

Retirement of three-term assemblyman creates two open seats in the most staunchly Republican district in New Jersey

By David Wildstein, November 18 2022 11:09 am

Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Wantage)  will not seek re-election to a fourth term in the New Jersey State Assembly, leaving two open seats in the heavily Republican 24th district.

Wirths cited family personal reasons for his retirement.

“After much thoughtful reflection, I have decided that I am at a point in my life where I’m ready to slow it down some,” said Wirths. “My wife’s health issues have been public for a while now and more recently I had a health scare of my own. When confronted with a profound situation you start to take stock of your life and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are other things I wish to do after my term is complete.”

That means that the six-candidate Republican field that had been competing for the seat of Parker Space (R-Wantage), who announced his retirement earlier this year, could grow in the coming weeks as candidates compete for a rare two-seat opportunity in perhaps the most conservative Republican district in the state.

Sussex County Commissioner Dawn Fantasia, Warren County Commissioner Jason Sarnoski, Chester Mayor-elect Michael Inganamort, Lafayette Board of Education President Josh Aikens, former Bogota mayor and new Sussex County resident Steve Lonegan, and newcomer Enrico Fioranelli, a gym owner from Roxbury, are mentioned as likely candidates.

Sussex County Commissioner Chris Carney, a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers and a Fantasia ally, could also join the race now that two seats are up for grabs.

“Hal is an outstanding colleague in the Legislature and an even better friend,” said Wirth’s running mate, Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Franklin). “We share a strong interest in fiscal issues and have collaborated extensively on State Budget matters. When his term ends, I’ll miss having him around day to day to bounce around ideas particularly during Budget season in the Legislature. Together with Parker and our joint district office staff, we have had a good camaraderie that I’ll genuinely miss.”

The 57-year-old Wirths served as state Commissioner of Labor for more than seven years before running for the Assembly in 2017 after incumbent Gail Phoebus lost party support.  

Wirths had been slated to become New Jersey’s Secretary of Agriculture after Republican Chris Christie became governor in 2009, but incoming Senate President Steve Sweeney was able to save his ex-running mate, Doug Fisher;  Fisher still occupies the post. 

He is a former Sussex County freeholder and began his political career in 1986 as campaign manager for Bill Grant, a conservative former Montclair Town Commissioner who had challenged Rep. Marge Roukema (R-Ridgewood) in the Republican primary.

“I’m very grateful to the residents of the 24th Legislative District for the trust they have shown in me,” said Wirths. “I fully intend to serve out my full term and work just as hard to represent the interests of my district in the year ahead.  New Jersey has many serious issues that need addressing and I want to continue to play an active role while I’m still seated in the State Legislature.”

“When I look back on my public service that started on the Sussex County Freeholder Board and led to being Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and ultimately to Assemblyman of the 24th Legislative District, I am proud of what I have accomplished,”  Wirths stated.  “After my Assembly term ends, although I won’t be on the front lines anymore, I do intend to stay involved in the community.”

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