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Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, left, with her chief of staff, Debbie Francica. (Photo: Facebook).

Francica, Sheehan-Willis will get top Bergen election posts

Murphy naming replacements for stalwarts DiCostanzo, O’Connor

By David Wildstein, July 27 2021 12:42 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy will name Debra Francica as the interim Bergen County Superintendent of Elections and Jamie Sheehan-Willis as the deputy, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

They will replace to legendary Bergen election officials, Patti DiCostanzo and Terry O’Connor.  The two retired earlier this year after running elections in the state’s largest county since the 1990s.   DiCostanzo left in April and O’Connor a few weeks after the June primary.

The selection of Francica, the chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who is retiring at the end of the current legislative session. Bergen County Democratic Chairman Paul Juliano had actively pushed for Francica.

Sheehan-Willis, a former Bergen County GOP vice chair, is currently a member of the Bergen County Board of Elections.  Bergen Republicans had supported Sheehan-Willis after she prevailed in a vote by the party policy committee over former South Hackensack Mayor Rosina Romano, a Board of Elections investigator and former commissioner.

Bergen County Republican Chairman Jack Zisa says he’s reviewing potential candidates to replace Sheehan-Willis.

The new election officials who will assume their posts on an acting basis and then await Senate confirmation for full-terms.

The new leadership comes as election officials in Bergen and across the state look to implement early-in person voting and electronic poll books.

The Murphy administration has moved slowly on election appointments, with no movement on several Republican election official vacancies.

In Essex County, party leader have asked Gov. Phil Murphy to nominate Nancy Donatiello to fill the vacant deputy post.  He nominated Patricia Spango, a former West Orange Council President and Democratic municipal chair, to serve as superintendent following the resignation of Edna Baugh, a Republican, last year.

Spango is serving on acting basis as she awaits Senate confirmation.

The Republican deputy post in Hudson County is also empty.

At the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, one Republican commissioner seat has been vacant for more than five years.

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