In a move that appears to take the strongest potential Republican Assembly candidate in the 38th district off the table, Gov. Phil Murphy has nominated Fair Lawn councilman John Cosgrove to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission.
Cosgrove’s nomination means Murphy has pulled the nomination of another Republican, East Rutherford mayor James Cassella, to the commission.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), who had originally recommended Casella for the post, told the New Jersey Globe that he agreed to the Cosgrove nomination to help a fellow Bergen County Democrat, State Sen. Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus).
Lagana wanted Cosgrove to get a PVSC seat. Sarlo agreed to switch Cassella to a seat on the North Jersey District Water Commission.
Murphy nominated Cassella last May, along with Passaic mayor Hector Lora and Paterson councilwoman Ruby Cotton.
The Senate has not acted on their confirmations.
Two commissioners, Scott Heck and David Catuogno, resigned in May after Murphy threatened to remove them for not living within the PVSC district. The third seat was held by Kenneth Lucianin, who resigned in March.
State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) has not yet signed off on Lora and Cotton.
A former mayor, Cosgrove was the first choice of Republicans to run in a November 2018 special elections against Lagana and Assemblymembers Lisa Swain (D-Fair Lawn) and Christopher Tully (D-Bergenfield). He had suffered a stroke in March and declined to be considered for the Legislature last year.
The PVSC has been a source of stress for Murphy, who got involved in a contested election for vice chairman and lost. Newark Councilman Luis Quintana also wanted the post and Murphy’ authorities unit director, Mary Maples, started calling commissioners on behalf of another commissioner, former Bergen County freeholder Elizabeth Calabrese. One of her calls was to Newark Councilwoman Mildred Crump – Maples didn’t realize that Crump and Quintana were friends and allies.
Maples has since departed the governor’s office to become general counsel at University Hospital.