Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) and Assemblywoman DeAnne DeFuccio defeated Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti and former Saddle River Republican Municipal Chairman Jon Kurpis.
The contest in the 39th district saw State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) turn against Auth, her longtime running mate, after a divisive battle to succeed State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest), who died in February.
Schepisi eventually won that contest, but not before several vicious exchanges with Auth. DeFuccio was appointed to fill Schepisi’s vacant seat in the lower chamber, defeating Azzariti, who ran with the senator’s blessing.
Both of those contests were won by narrow margins, and Schepisi endorsed Azzariti and Kurpis in early May.
The contest that followed turned acrid at times. Both teams accused their opponents of secretly being Democrats.
Auth and DeFuccio hit Azzariti over donations made by the New Jersey Anesthesia PAC, the political arm of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Azzariti is a member of the New Jersey State Society of Anesthesiologists and a delegate to the national group. He is also an ASA alternate delegate and its alternate director.
The PAC donated $6,300 to Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2017 campaign. It gave $41,460 to Democratic legislative candidates and leadership groups that year, significantly more than the $11,900 it disbursed to Republican candidates and PACs in 2017.
Azzariti and Kurpis said DeFuccio was a Democrat posing as a Republican, citing her vote in a 1992 Democratic primary. They also charged Auth was an ineffective legislator, pointing to abstentions he made on bills related to the pandemic.
The incumbents had the edge when it came to ballot positions. Auth and DeFuccio were awarded the Bergen County line. Their names appear beneath those of Schepisi and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli in Bergen, which accounts for a majority of the district’s Republican primary votes.
In Passaic, Schepisi was on the line with Azzariti and Kurpis.