Five-term Union County Surrogate James S. La Corte has died. He was 74.
“Union County residents have lost one of their most trusted public servants, and Democrats across Union County have lost a good friend,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari, the Union County Democratic Chairman. “His compassion for strangers was unmatched, and he will remain an example for decency in public office.”
LaCorte, a Democrat, was elected in 1999 following the death of Ann Conti. He defeated former Republican freeholder Linda Lee Kelly by a 55%-45% margin
He was the son of the late Nicholas LaCorte, the last Republican mayor of Elizabeth. He served from 1953 to 1955 and was elected as a Republican to the State Senate in 1967.
In 1977, LaCorte ran for State Assembly in the Elizabeth-based 21st district when Linden mayor John Gregorio gave up his seat to run for the state senate. The top vote-getter in the Democratic primary was attorney Raymond Lesniak (9,353). Four-term incumbent Thomas Deverin (D-Carteret) finished second, running 492 votes behind Lesniak and 3,561 votes ahead of LaCorte.
LaCorte was unopposed when he ran in 2014 and won 56% against Republican Arthur Zapolski in 2009.
Conti won the post in a 1982 special election after Republican Surrogate Walter Ulrich resigned to join the Kean administration. She defeated former freeholder Rose Marie Sinnot by 2,974 votes.
“In addition to being a talented lawyer, Jim was dedicated to serving the public – particularly those experiencing a family loss, or in need of help preparing their estate,” Scutari said. “During his time in office, Jim expanded evening hours and held them in various parts of the county – including Rahway, Cranford, Summit, and Union Twp – to ensure easy access for residents unable to travel to Elizabeth. He also frequently volunteered his personal time and traveled throughout Union County to work side by side with residents in drafting wills and serving as an advocate for families.”
It will be up to Gov. Phil Murphy to nominate a replacement for LaCorte, with the advise and consent of the State Senate. LaCorte died with two year remaining on his term, but there are no special elections for Surrogate. Instead, the term resets and there will be a November 2022 election for a full five-year term.