Gov. Phil Murphy is preparing to nominate Commissioner of Banking and Insurance Marlene Caride to a Superior Court judgeship, with Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) emerging as a possible candidate to replace her, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Caride and Schaer had been running mates in the South Bergen-based 36th district for six years before Murphy picked her for a cabinet post after the 2017 gubernatorial election.
Highly-regarded in Trenton as a former chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Schaer has served as a legislator since 2006 and as a Passaic city councilman for the last 27 years, most of them as council president. He spent decades in the financial services industry.
Schaer does not have a lock on the appointment, and several other candidates are being considered by the Murphy administration.
The timing on Caride’s departure is unclear – possibly not until the fall – and that would depend on her ability to get confirmed to the bench.
The former local prosecutor and attorney would need approval from the New Jersey State Bar Association Judicial and Prosecutorial Appointments Committee and signoff from four Bergen County senators, including Republican Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), before the Senate Judiciary Committee could consider her nomination.
There is no indication that confirmation would be a problem for Caride.
Schaer is one of four legislators to hold two public offices. A ban on dual office-holding approved in 2007 grandfathered in those already in office. Just three state senators who also serve as mayors – Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen), Brian P. Stack (D-Union City) – and Schaer remain.
If Murphy picks Schaer, it will create vacancies in the legislature and in the city of Passaic. To obviate November 2022 special elections, it’s likely that Schaer would not depart until after the September 13 deadline.
While the 36th district is largely Democratic – Schaer won it by about 5,600 votes last year and roughly 6,200 in 2019 – it’s unlikely that Democrats will want to test the district in a legislative race held in Joe Biden’s mid-term election.
The city of Passaic has held the third seat in the Bergen-based district since 2005, when Schaer flipped the 36th after seven-term Republican Paul DiGaetano (R-Nutley) left to run for governor.
But Passaic doesn’t automatically get this seat, and their Democratic county chairman, John Currie, will need to convince Paul Juliano, the Bergen County Democratic Chairman, to continue a deal that was made 17 years ago.
It’s also possible, if not likely, that Schaer’s replacement in the Assembly is Hispanic. The newly-drawn 36th district is 42.3% Hispanic, but all three legislators are white. Passaic is 73% Hispanic.
In the city of Passaic, Schaer’s council seat is up in May of 2023. The city council would appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of his term, and there would likely be some jockeying from within the current governing body for the council president post.
The Banking and Insurance post has traditionally been low-profile and regulates banks, credit unions and insurance companies. The post was created in 1996 when the two departments were merged together.