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Assemblyman-elect Alex Sauickie (R-Jackson). (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Sauickie will be next LD12 assemblyman after convincing convention victory

Jackson councilman won two-thirds of the vote against two opponents

By Joey Fox, August 11 2022 8:01 pm

Jackson Councilman Alex Sauickie III has won a special election convention to succeed the late Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Plumsted), defeating Plumsted Committeeman Dominick Cuozzo and former Jackson Councilman Scott Martin. Sauickie received 106 votes to Cuozzo’s 44, with Martin well behind at 3.

Sauickie was generally aligned with the state Republican establishment and had the endorsement of Dancer’s widow, while Cuozzo – who is also the pastor of the Bible Baptist Church – was the choice of Ocean GOP Chairman George Gilmore and right-wing elements of the party.

“We need to push back, hard, against the radical policies being pushed upon us and our children by the far-left,” Sauickie said in his introductory speech.

The vote was held among more than 150 committee members from Ocean, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Burlington Counties; Burlington represents around 10% of the district’s population, while the other three counties each represent around 30%. A county-by-county breakdown of the vote was not released, so it’s impossible to know exactly who made up Sauickie’s winning coalition.

Cuozzo’s loss is a setback for Gilmore, who won back the Ocean Republican chairmanship last month after being convicted, then pardoned, on federal tax charges. Ocean GOP politics is notoriously fractious, and Jackson, which has three different active Republican factions, is no exception.

That Sauickie won despite not having Gilmore’s backing and despite his strained relations with Jackson’s growing Orthodox Jewish population indicates that he may have had outsized support among non-Ocean committee members – or that Gilmore’s hold on the Ocean GOP is not as strong as it could be.

Dancer had served in the Assembly from 2002 until his death on July 23, 2022 after a long illness. He initially represented the Ocean County-based 30th district, but the legislative map drawn in 2011 put Plumsted in the brand-new 12th district, an amalgam of four different counties and four previous legislative districts.

The chairmen of the Ocean, Middlesex, and Monmouth County Republican Parties reached a deal at the time to give each county one of the district’s three seats, with Dancer as the Ocean legislator. Upon Dancer’s death, it was initially unclear whether that deal would still be honored by the new party leaders, but there never ended up being any real effort to deny Ocean the seat.

In addition to Sauickie, Cuozzo, and Martin, several other candidates floated campaigns at one point. Former Toms River Councilman (and current Plumsted resident) ​​Brian Kubiel and Englishtown Councilman Daniel Francisco both decided against running, while Jackson Mayor Michael Reina abandoned his campaign almost immediately after launching it.

When Sauickie will officially join the legislature is at the discretion of Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge). The Assembly hasn’t met since the state budget was passed in June and has no sessions planned anytime soon, but Coughlin may choose to privately swear in Sauickie before his chamber reconvenes in the fall.

After winning the convention’s main vote, Sauickie was also chosen unanimously by acclamation to be the Republican nominee for this November’s 12th district special election. That election will be a more straightforward Republican vs. Democrat contest, but Democrats (who have yet to select their nominee) are unlikely to flip the solidly Republican district.

This story was updated at 12:06 a.m. on August 12 with a correction: Scott Martin is a former Jackson councilman, not a current councilman, and Alex Sauickie is no longer council vice president.

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