Today, Ralph Caputo resigned his seat in the New Jersey State Assembly, ending a legislative career that began more than 55 years ago when Lyndon B. Johnson was president and Richard J. Hughes was governor.
The popular 82-year-old Essex County Democrat will begin the next chapter of his career as a member of the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey board of directors. The State Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination on Monday.
Essex County Democrats now have 7 to 35 days to call a special election convention to pick an interim replacement to fill the remainder of Caputo’s term, which expires on January 9, 2024.
In the short term, Assembly Democrats are one vote down as they seek to pass the Election Transparency Act, also known as the ELEC bill, next week.
Caputo was a 26-year-old Republican from Newark’s North Ward in 1967 when he flipped a Democratic Assembly seat, becoming part of a large first-year class of Essex lawmakers, including 32-year-old Thomas Kean, the future governor. He served two terms before losing a Republican primary in 1971 to Carl Orechio (R-Nutley).
After making several comeback bids – he sought a West Essex Assembly seat in 1973 as a Republican and ran for Essex County Executive in 1978 and 1982 as Democrat – Caputo unseated a Republican incumbent to win an Essex County freeholder seat in 2002. Five years later, he ousted an incumbent in the Democratic primary and returned to the State Assembly after a 36-year absence.