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Somerset County Democratic Chair Peg Schaffer. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.

Murphy picks Schaffer for Sports Authority post

Somerset Democratic chair will replace Bob Yudin

By David Wildstein, February 04 2021 11:00 am

Gov. Phil Murphy will nominate Peg Schaffer, the Somerset County Democratic Chair, and the vice chair of the Democratic State Committee, for a seat on the Sports and Exposition Authority.

She will replace Bob Yudin, a former Bergen County Republican Chairman.

Schaffer was elected county chair in 2008, following the retirement of Elia Pelios.  Under her leadership, Somerset Democrats have flipped the onetime Republican stronghold to a 5-0 Democratic majority with Democrats occupying the County Clerk, Sheriff and Surrogate posts.

Murphy had initially replaced Yudin in 2019 when he nominated Bergen County Democratic Chairman Louis Stellato to fill his seat.

As part of deal to get State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) to sign off on Stellato, Murphy withdrew the nomination to replace Yudin and instead put Stellato in a seat held by Michael Ferguson, a former Republican congressman.

Murphy had agreed to allow Yudin to remain on the authority for one more year – a move that has extended the Bergen GOP leader’s tenure on the authority for two years.

The decision to remove Yudin comes just months after the former Bergen GOP leader strongly supported Democrat Joe Biden for President.  The move that might be seen as a refusal by a Democratic governor to have the back of an anti-Trump Republican, although Yudin clearly would have been against Trump anyway.

Yudin wrote op-eds in the New York Times and local newspapers in support of Biden, contributed $5,600 to the Biden campaign, and was involved in the Lincoln Project to oust Trump.

The refusal by Yudin, a Vietnam war veteran, to support Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign led to his defeat for re-election as county chairman by former Assembly Majority Leader Paul DiGaetano.

Schaffer will need signoff from Republican State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) in order to move forward in the Senate confirmation process.

Bateman told the New Jersey Globe that he will approve Schafffer’s nomination.

“She’s a good person,” Bateman said.  “I will support her.”

Murphy has also nominated William Cooper, a former Somerset County Counsel, to serve as a state Administrative Law Judge.

Cooper had previously served as municipal attorney in Somerville and South Bound Brook and was transition counsel to Gov.-elect Chris Christie in 2009. He was named county counsel in 2011, during Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli’s final year as a freeholder.

If Schaffer is approved by the Senate, she’ll some other prominent public figures on the board: former Ocean County GOP Chairman Joseph Buckalew; former State Sen. Anthony Scardino (D-Lyndhurst); and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura.

The president and CEO of the Sports Authority is former Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.