Todd Caliguire wants term limits for the New Jersey Legislature and promises to serve no more than eight years if elected to represent the 39th district in the New Jersey State Assembly.
That’s a generous agreement for Caliguire, who turns 68 in May: he’ll voluntarily walk away at age 76.
“Almost one-half of the 40 present members of the State Senate have been in the legislature for about 20 years or more, and one has been in office for almost 50,” Caliguire said in an email to GOP county committee members.
That’s a risky move, considering the reverence many Republican county committee members in the Bergen County district have for the late State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest), who was serving his 40th year in the State Senate when he died in 2021.
“Term limits would ensure that the legislature experiences an infusion of new ideas, new energy, and a new urgency to solve our state’s serious problems,” he said.
Caliguire faces five-term Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan), who is two years younger, and Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti, at the District 39 GOP Convention next week.
The former two-term Bergen County freeholder hasn’t won an election in 28 years and after a profusion of career failures since the 1990s. His problem is not as much voters wanting him to leave as it is their not wanting him there in the first place.
He ran for Bergen County Executive last year and lost by more than 11 percentage points against two-term Democrat James Tedesco. Tedesco beat Caliguire in the 28 mostly-Republican municipalities in the newly-drawn 39th district, albeit by a narrow margin.
Once viewed as a rising star in Bergen GOP politics, the Midland Park resident first sought party support for congressman in 1984 and county executive in 1986. He was a two-term freeholder but hadn’t won an election since 1995. He’s lost two races for State Senate, one for county executive, and one for the Republican nomination for governor.
Caliguire remains haunted by his 2007 Senate primary against then-Assemblyman Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove), where Caliguire sent out a xenophobic mailer that ran side-by-side photos of O’Toole, who was the state’s first Asian American legislator, and Rev. Al Sharpton, alleging that O’Toole was “the Republican Al Sharpton.”
“Democrats like Al Sharpton have divided America with their fixation on race and affirmative action,” the mailer stated. “Now Kevin O’Toole is guilty of the same thing.”
O’Toole referenced the mailer in a column on Asian hate he wrote for the New Jersey Globe in March 2021.
“The not-so-silent hand of racism would rear its ugliness when my opponent, in a blatant effort to stir racial waves, sent a mailer of me and Reverend Al Sharpton, referring to us as Affirmative Action babies,” he said.
Caliguire’s campaign manager, Kevin Collins, defended their messaging in an interview with The (Bergen) Record.
“We could have altered the photo. We did not,” Collins told The Record. “We could have made a more jaundiced look to his skin. We did not.”
The Republican State Chairman at the time, Tom Wilson, smacked Caliguire for race-baiting.
“This mail piece and tactics like it have no place in a Republican primary,” he said to The Record. “This kind of mail is frankly despicable and seeks to create division where none should exist.”
O’Toole, then a six-term assemblyman, beat Caliguire by 13 points, even carrying the Bergen County portion of the 40th legislative district while running off-the-line in a race for an open State Senate seat. It remains one of the few times the Bergen GOP organization line didn’t hold.