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Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti.

Azzariti outraised District 39 Assembly incumbents more than 2-to-1

Schepisi-backed challengers have cash advantage in race’s final weeks

By Nikita Biryukov, May 18 2021 4:57 pm

Republican Assembly challengers in the 39th district raised more than twice as much as the district’s incumbents over the most recent reporting period, and they’re heading into the final weeks of the race with a nearly three-to-one cash advantage.

Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti reported raising $106,025 in 29-day pre-election reports submitted to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

He’s spent $21,924.25 and heads into the final weeks of the race with $84,100.75 left in his war chest.

Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) brought in $38,491.79 but spent more than half of those funds, $24,168.13. He has $21,705.08 banked.

Auth’s running mate, Assemblywoman DeAnne DeFuccio (R-Upper Saddle River) raised $10,926 and spent just $823.94. She has just $10,102.06 banked.

Saddle River GOP Chairman Jonathan Kurpis did not file a 29-day report with ELEC, and a joint committee for the two challengers reported just $2,400 in fundraising. All of that money came from Azzariti.

In an email, Kurpis told the New Jersey Azzariti took the lead on fundraising because he joined the race “at the last possible moment.”

The deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions was April 5. The reports ELEC released Thursday cover contributions received between a campaign’s inception and May 7.

Kurpis said he would unveil his fundraising “in it’s true glory” in an 11-day pre-election report due on May 28. Those filings contain information about fundraising and spending between May 8 and May 25.

“Let’s just say it will be an instant alka-seltzer needed experience for our competitors,” he said in the email.

Auth criticized Azzariti for raising money predominately from members of the New Jersey Medical Association.

“Of course a special interest insider raised big money. While usually he’s been using that kind of influence to fund Phil Murphy, now he’s using it to help himself,” Auth said.  “The last thing taxpayers need is another self serving insider in Trenton.”

In some ways, the Republican contest in the 39th district spawned from the death of State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest), who died in February at the age of 86.

State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), then an assemblywoman, had already launched a primary challenge against Cardinale at the time of his death, and the senator’s passing pit her against Auth, another longtime running mate.

She emerged victorious, but the contest took on an acrid tone, and time has done little to erase the bad blood between the two.

Earlier this month, Schepisi endorsed Azzariti and Kurpis, passing over Auth and DeFuccio, whom the district’s Republicans backed for the senator’s vacant Assembly seat.

Her bid for a full term in the Senate is uncontested, and she’s the best-funded Republican in the district. She reported raised $175,069 in her 29-day filing and had $195,475 in her war chest.

This article was updated with comment from Kurpis at 7:31 PM and from Auth on May 19 at 10:31 AM.

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