Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) will run for State Senate in the 39th district to replace Gerald Cardinale, who died last Saturday at age 86.
His candidacy was immediately endorsed by Carole Cardinale, the late senator’s widow.
“In this incredibly difficult time as we mourn Gerry’s passing, you might wonder why I would take the time to make a political statement,” she said in a letter to Republicans. “The answer is simple: because that is what Gerry would have wanted me to do.”
The four-term assemblyman will run in a March 9 special election convention next month to fill the remaining ten months of Cardinale’s Senate term, and in the June Republican primary for a full two-year term — if he wins the convention.
Auth is a former aide to Cardinale and spent over 30 years working on his campaigns.
“For seven years in the New Jersey General Assembly, I have fought hard on the issues most important to the citizens of the 39th District: lower property taxes, curbing over-development, shelters for battered women, mental health care for New Jersey citizens, and a fair school funding formula,” Auth said. “I enjoy attending local events and look for any opportunities I can find to meet and learn from my constituents.”
That pits Auth against Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), who had been mounting a primary challenge to Cardinale at the time of the 12-term senator’s death.
Auth told the New Jersey Globe that he will abide by the results of the special election convention. If Schepisi defeats him on March 9, he would instead seek re-election to the Assembly.
“Bob is the only person in the field with integrity and leadership abilities,” said Cardinale, a former Demarest councilwoman. “Gerry knew better than anyone what a tireless and humble public servant Bob has been to the people of the 39th district.”
Since the filing deadline has passed, Schepisi is unopposed at the Bergen County Republican convention for the organization line next month — unless Bergen County GOP Chairman Jack Zisa reopens the nomination process. The convention date has not been set.
Schepisi has already secured the organization line in Passaic County, which makes up about 15% of the primary vote.
Auth said he would not be running if my dear friend, Senator Cardinale, were still with us.”
“He did an incredible job for the 39th District and there was no reason to replace him,” he said. “Now that he is sadly no longer with us; however, I feel I am the best representative with the best qualifications for the job. I give you my pledge that I will dedicate myself to fighting for the issues that are most important to the people of the 39th District. Gerry told me numerous times that he thought I was the best person to replace him when the time came, and I think that running for State Senate now is the right thing to do.”
Cardinale said that her husband taught Auth that “the best way to be a great leader for your constituents is to show up and do what’s right.”
“While I deeply respect Carole and the Cardinale family and offer them my deepest condolences, the future representation of this district will be determined by the Republican committee members from across the district and will be based on what is best for the future of our party and who best to win a general election,” Schepisi said. “Over the next 10 days, we will each get the opportunity to make our case to the committee.”
Schepisi said that she received more votes than Auth in the last four elections and outraised him.
“I am confident I will be our party’s nominee,” she said. “I look forward to the opportunity to make my case directly to the committee and continue to earn their support.”