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Former Assemblyman Guy Talarico. (Photo: Guy Talarico).

Talarico may seek return to Trenton in Senate race against Lagana

Former Bergen GOP assemblyman was a casualty of 2001 legislative redistricting

By David Wildstein, January 24 2023 1:42 pm

Former Assemblyman Guy Talarico (R-Oradell) is considering a bid for State Senate in Bergen County’s 38th district, where ousting incumbent Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus) is a key component of any path for Republicans to take control of the legislature in the November midterm elections.

“It’s something people have talked to me about and I’m mulling it over,” Talarico told the New Jersey Globe.  “I haven’t made a decision.”

While Talarico, a solid conservative ex-lawmaker, has been out of Trenton for nearly 22 years, he candidacy could bring some campaign and fundraising skills to the GOP, which has struggled to compete in the Democratic-leaning district for more than a decade.   He won the 38th three times when the district was competitive in the 1990s.

“Our country and our state are in trouble and it really flows through the states,” Talarico said.  “Is it something I’d like to do?  Yes.  Is it something I can do?  I don’t know.”

Talarico and other potential candidates will need to decide by next week.  Bergen County GOP Chairman Jack Zisa set a February 1 filing deadline to be considered by the party policy (screening) committee and to be on the convention ballot to complete for the organization line.

“People will know soon,” said Talarico.  “It’s on my plate to figure out what to do next. It’s something I would love to do.”

Paramus Councilman Robert Kaiser, emboldened by GOP wins in his hometown in 2021 and 2022,  is also thinking about a Senate run.  But sources say he is on the fence.

For the State Assembly, it is looking increasingly more likely that Glen Rock businessman Barry Wilkes and Maywood Councilwoman Danyel Ciccarelli will be the Republican Assembly candidates against incumbents Lisa Swain (D-Fair Lawn) and Christopher Tully (D-Bergenfield).

A former Oradell councilman, Talarico was elected to the State Assembly in 1997 after Patrick Roma (R-Palisades Park) resigned to become a Superior Court judge.   He became a casualty of legislative redistricting in 2001 when his hometown was moved from the 38th to 39th, which already had two Republican incumbents.

Later, Talarico served as the Bergen County GOP chairman.   He hosted a fundraiser for another Bergen County resident, Dr. Mehmet Oz, in last year’s race for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

The 38th remains a tough flip for Republicans; Gov. Phil Murphy carried the district by six percentage points in 2021.

Comebacks after extended absences from the legislature have happened before.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Nutley) was first elected to the State Assembly in 1967 as a Republican from Newark’s North Ward and was re-elected before losing a 1971 GOP primary.  He returned to the Assembly in 2007 as a Democrat and is currently seeking re-election.

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