Assembly Republicans, who have picked up at least four seats – with up to four more seats still up for grabs — will elect a new minority leader this morning.
Nancy Munoz (R-Summit) and John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) will face off to succeed Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), who was elected to the State Senate on Tuesday.
A third candidate, Brian Bergen (R-Denville), withdrew from the race last night, saying it wasn’t his time.
Two weeks ago, Munoz appeared to secure enough votes after two of her opponents, Ned Thomson (R-Wall) and DiMaio agreed to run on a slate with her. DiMaio was slotted for conference leader and Thomson was to be deputy minority leader. A fourth lawmaker, freshman Antwan McClellan (R-Ocean City), was picked for minority whip.
But Munoz’s campaign began to unravel days later when conservative activists began objecting to a pro-choice Republican with positions on guns and vaccinations that are inconsistent with the GOP caucus to become their leader.
As a result, Munoz was unable to secure public endorsements from Thomson and DiMaio supporters who had been expected to join the deal.
Now, it looks as through DiMaio, who has teamed up with Thomson, might be a slight favorite in a race that could go
New Republican lawmakers elected on Tuesday – Don Guardian (R-Atlantic City), Claire Swift (R-Margate), Bethanne McCarthy-Patrick (R-Salem) and Beth Sawyer (R-Woolwich) – will participate in the vote.
Two GOP candidates from the Monmouth-based 11th district, Marilyn Piperno and Kimberly Eulner, will also take part in the vote.
Republicans are trying to work out the details of those votes, in the even that Piperno, Eulner and Panico represent the deciding votes in the race between Munoz and DiMaio.
Sometimes one vote matters in a leadership election.
When Bob Menendez was a congressman in 2002, he ran for House Democratic Caucus Chairman – the number three leadership post – and beat Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) by just one vote, 104 to 103.
The winning vote was cast by Tom Feeley, a Colorado state senator running for an open House seat. Republican Bob Beauprez led Feeley by 122 votes out of 152,838. With a recount set for after the November 14 leadership vote, both Feeley and Beauprez headed to Washington for freshman orientation.
Gephardt allowed Feeley to vote in contested race for House Minority Leader and Democratic Conference Chair.
Feeley voted for Menendez – the deciding vote, as it turned out.
It took five weeks to count the votes in Colorado. When the recount was over, Feeley lost by 121.
Correction: Vinny Panico, who is running 218 votes behind in his bid for an Assembly seat in the 16th district, did not participate in the leadership vote.