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Addiego is first Senate party switcher since Zane

Most legislators who switch parties don’t hold seats

By David Wildstein, January 28 2019 4:17 pm

If State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham) wins re-election as a Democrat in 2021, she would be the first party switcher to hold a seat in the New Jersey Legislature since the current State Constitution was adopted in 1947.

She would also be the first sitting legislator to switch parties without having first lost party support for re-election.

Raymond Zane switched from Democrat to Republican in 2001 after losing party support for re-election to the seat he had held with little electoral trouble since 1973.  He lost his bid for re-election to a 9th term by 1,735 votes, 51.5%-47.5%, against Gloucester County Freeholder Steve Sweeney.

Other party switchers:

* Angela Perun was a two-term assemblywoman from Plainfield who switched parties after Middlesex County Democrats dropped her from their organization line and replaced her with Piscataway Mayor (now state senator) Bob Smith.  Boosted by Gov. Tom Kean’s landslide re-election, Perun came within 442 votes of beating Smith in 1985.

* Jorge Rod, a two-term Republican from Ocean County, lost the backing of the county GOP organization in 1985.  He switched parties and sought re-election as a Democrat but lost to Jeff Moran by 15,561 votes.

* Matthew Ahearn ousted longtime Republican Assemblyman Nicholas Felice (R-Fair Lawn) by 667 votes in 2001 but lost the backing of Bergen County Democratic chairman Joseph Ferriero for a second term.  He switched to the Green Party and won just 5% of the vote in 2003.

* Rafael Fraguela, then a Union City commissioner, won a State Assembly seat on a ticket with Albio Sires (D-West New York) in 2001.   The incumbent, Rudy Garcia, had been taken out as Union City mayor the year before and was then stripped of party support in his bid to keep his Assembly seat; Fraguela had sided with Bob Menendez, Brian Stack and Donald Scarinci in the Union City battle.  After a falling out with the Union City Democratic leadership, Stack replaced Fraguela as Speaker Sires’ running mate.

Fraguela switched parties and ran for State Senate against incumbent Bernard Kenny (D-Hoboken).  He won just 19% of the vote.

* Arline Friscia was elected to the Assembly as a Democrat in 1995; she and John Wisniewski ousted two-term Republican incumbents Stephen Mikulak (R-Woodbridge) and Ernest Oros (R-Woodbridge) by more than 5,000 votes.  Middlesex County Democrats dumped Friscia from their line in 2003 to make room for Perth Amboy mayor Joe Vas.  Vas beat Friscia in the Democratic primary by 735 votes.

Friscia switched parties in August.  Republican Assembly candidate Robert Mauro withdrew from the race and Friscia became the GOP nominee.  Democrats went to court and challenged her right to run as a Republican after losing the Democratic primary, but a Superior Court judge ruled that she could.  That led to the eventual passage of a sore-loser law.

In the general, Vas defeated Friscia by 3,197 votes.

* Francis Bodine, a 71-year-old seven-term assemblyman, lost the support of the Burlington County Republican organization for re-election in 2007.  He switched parties and became the Democratic candidate for State Senate, winning 39% against Republican Phil Haines.

Other legislators switched parties after an interruption in their legislative careers.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley) was a Republican assemblyman from Newark from 1968 to 1972.  He later became a Democrat and won a seat on the Essex County Board of Freeholders in 2002.  He returned to the Assembly as a Democrat in 2007.

Assemblyman Anthony Imperiale was elected to the Assembly as an independent in 1971 and to the State Senate as an independent in 1973.  He lost re-election in 1977 and returned to the Legislature as a Republican assemblyman in 1979.

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