A Republican councilman who endorsed Democrat Mikie Sherrill for Congress and is now viewed as a possible candidate for Mayor of Rockaway Township was sworn in yesterday as a School Resource Officer (SRO) in Democratic-controlled Parsippany.
The unexpected death of Mayor Michael Dachisen earlier this week at age 58 creates a special election in November for mayor, and insiders say that Michael Puzio is considering a run for the post. That could put Puzio on a ticket with Republican Jay Webber, who faces Sherrill for the 11th district seat. If that happens, it puts Morris County GOP Chairman Ron DeFilippis, a Webber backer, in an awkward position, since he and Puzio share the same local allies in Rockaway.
Republicans suggest that Puzio’s new job running school security in Parsippany was tied to his endorsement of Sherrill, an accusation Democrats strongly deny. Puzio did not immediately return a 2:35 PM call seeking comment.
The local Republican county committee must submit three name of interim mayors to the township council. The council, which is controlled by a faction of the local GOP that opposed the late mayor, may pick one of the three names. If they don’t make a pick, the county committee, controlled by Dachisen allies, makes the pick.
Puzio was Dachisen’s running mate in the 2015 election.
Additionally, the county committee gets to pick the Republican nominee for mayor in the November special. The winner will serve the remaining fourteen months of Dachison’s term.
There has been speculation that Puzio might switch parties and run on the Democratic ticket for mayor in November. The party switching rumor have surrounded him since June, when a Republican councilman photographed him at a local diner meeting with Sherrill, two Democratic councilmen, and former Morris County Freeholder Douglas Romaine, the Democratic municipal chairman.
Sources say that the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination is Councilman Jonathan Sackett.
Either way, Democrats are expected to make a bid for the seat. Rockaway hasn’t had a Democratic mayor since Frank Maddeloni was unseated by John Inglesino in 1995.
Rockaway Township is the fourth largest municipality in Morris County and a key town for Sherrill in her bid to become the first Democrat to represent New Jersey’s 11th district since 1984. Rodney Frelinghuysen won 64% in 2016, running ten percentage points ahead of Donald Trump.