Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez has withdrawn her name from consideration to become the next U.S. Attorney from New Jersey and plans to stay on as prosecutor.
“I have read speculation about my possibly being in contention for United States Attorney in New Jersey and I would like to be clear that I intend to continue serving as prosecutor in Hudson County,” Suarez said on Wednesday.
Gov. Phil Murphy intends to renominate Suarez to another term as Hudson prosecutor, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
“Our office has made remarkable strides in doing the work to take guns, drugs and gangs off the streets and I look forward to the opportunity to continue working side by side with some of the most dedicated members of law enforcement our state has to offer,” Suarez said.
The original short list of candidates for the post, reported by the New Jersey Globe in January, had included six others — former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip Sellinger, Henry Klingeman, Jenny Kramer, and Ricardo Solano, Jr. and Lee Vartan — and Jamel Semper, the current chief of the Organized Crime and Gang section at the U.S. Attorney’s office. Of that list, only Klingeman has been removed from active consideration.
The federal prosecutor post is traditionally filled by the senior United States Senator from the state, if that senator’s party occupies the White House. Bob Menendez will make a recommendation to Biden after consultation with Cory Booker, the state’s junior U.S. Senator.
Menendez has made no public comments on potential candidates and has said he will not until Biden formally nominates a candidate.
The White House has begun vetting Sellinger the co-chair of the global litigation practice at Greenberg Traurig, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is the top candidate.
Sellinger, 66, worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office from 1981 to 1984. He is on the ballot in the June 8 Democratic primary for re-election as a Democratic State Committeeman in New Jersey.
Vartan, the son of former Kearny Mayor Leo Vartan, was an assistant U.S. Attorney from 2007 to 2011 and an assistant counsel to Gov. Chris Christie from 2011 to 2012. He was later the chief of staff the New Jersey Attorney General and the Executive Assistant Attorney General. Vartan is now a partner at Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi, the firm of former U.S. Senator and Attorney General Jeff Chiesa.
Kramer was an assistant U.S. Attorney from 2005 to 2015 and is currently a partner at Alston & Bird. She has represented Menendez, and an unknown figure in the Bridgegate investigation. Solano served as First Assistant state Attorney General from 2008 to 2010 and as an assistant U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007. He is a partner at Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman.
Suarez, a former Superior Court Judge and Bergen County Counsel, had been widely viewed as the front runner. She would have been the second woman and first Hispanic to hold the post.
All three Democratic senators have indicated their support for Suarez to continue as the Hudson County Prosecutor.
“The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office has been transformed under the leadership of Esther Suarez,” said State Sen. Brian Stack (D-Union City). “I am proud of all her accomplishments and fully support her re-nomination.”
State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) said that he fully supports Suarez’s nomination and “looks forward to her continued good work for the residents and families of Hudson County.”
State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City) called Suarez:” a strong advocate for the Hudson County community” and said she was “proud to support her reappointment.”
“It has been my great honor to serve Governor Murphy and his administration, and it is my hope that my renomination will be heard by the State Senate so that we may all continue to focus on the important work of protecting the public,” Suarez said.
The current acting U.S. Attorney is Rachael Honig. She assumed the post on January 5 following the resignation of Craig Carpenito.
Carpenito was named to the post by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and approved by the state’s federal judges after the Trump White House was unable to get Menendez and Booker to sign off.
Prior to Carpenito, the post was occupied for nearly eight years by Paul Fishman, a Democrat who had been the choice of the state’s senior U.S. Senator at the time, Frank Lautenberg.