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State Sen. Gerald Cardinale. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Cardinale will seek 13th term in N.J. Senate

Bergen Republican says he plans to run again in 2021

By David Wildstein, February 18 2020 12:01 am

State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) intends to seek re-election to a 13th term in the New Jersey Senate next year.

Cardinale told the New Jersey Globe that while his plans to run again have never been a secret, he will formally announce his candidacy at a fundraiser next weekend in Bergen County.

He will turn 86 later this month and is the oldest member of the New Jersey Senate.

With the 2020 U.S. Census underway, it will still be more than a year until the Bergen County Republican knows what the 39th district looks like.

“Redistricting is the wildcard,” Cardinale said “If it’s still intact, I will run.”

While no candidates from either party have identified themselves as potential Cardinale challengers, there could be a contests for one of the State Assembly seats.

Woodcliff Lake mayor Carlos Rendo, the 2017 Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, is exploring a challenge to three-term Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Old Tappan).

Auth announced last week that he was dropping his two-week-old bid for Congress and said he would seek re-election to the Assembly.

Other candidates could emerge for the Assembly, depending on how the lines are drawn: Closter mayor John Glidden; Emerson mayor Danielle DiPaola; former Westwood councilwoman Alyssa Dawson; Upper Saddle River mayor Joanne Minichetti; Ramsey mayor Deirdre Dillon; and Robert Hermansen, a former Bergen County freeholder and Mahwah council president.

Two Republicans currently running for Congress in New Jersey’s 5th district, Montvale mayor Michael Ghassali and investment banker Frank Pallotta, could also emerge as legislative candidates if they fall short of defeating Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff).

The other 39th district incumbent, Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), has been the top vote-getter in the last three elections.  She’s been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate if Cardinale changes his mind after the lines are drawn.

The 39th has become less solidly Republican over the last decade.

When the district was drawn in 2011, there were 6,951 more Republicans than Democrats.  Nearly nine years later, the GOP registration edge has dropped to 2,174.

Gottheimer won the municipalities in the 39th by 620 votes when he ousted seven-term incumbent Scott Garrett in 2016.  When he faced former Cresskill councilman John McCann two years later, his 39th district plurality expanded to 10,400.

Donald Trump carried the 39th by over 4,000 votes in 2016.

Cardinale won re-election in 2017 by 4,121 votes, 53%-46%, against Democrat Linda Schwager.  He ran almost 2,000 votes ahead of the Republican candidate for governor, Kim Guadagno.

In 2017, Cardinale faced a challenge at the Bergen County Republican convention from McCann.  The senator won with 70% of the vote, 119 to 51, and McCann dropped out of the race.

Gottheimer won the municipalities in the 39th by 620 votes when he ousted seven-term incumbent Scott Garrett in 2016.  When he faced McCann two years later, his 39th district plurality expanded to 10,400.

Uncertainties of 2021

The two uncertainties surrounding the 39th district are redistricting and the gubernatorial primary.

With a plethora of short-listed candidates, it’s possible that gubernatorial candidates running off the organization line next year could pick their own slates for the legislature and freeholder.

In 1977, when Cardinale ran his first campaign for the State Assembly, there was a hotly-contested Republican primary between allies of two candidates for governor, former Senate President Raymond Bateman (R-Branchburg) and former Assembly Speaker Thomas Kean (R-Livingston).

Both gubernatorial candidates were allied with the leaders of waring Bergen GOP factions: Bergen County Republican Chairman Richard Vander Plaat was backing Kean and former Bergen GOP Chairman Anthony Statile was supporting Bateman.

At the same, time, Statile was planning to challenge Vander Plaat for county chairman.

Cardinale, then the mayor of Demarest, ran for Assembly on the Bateman line on a ticket with real estate developer John Inganamort; Assemblyman John Markert (R-Westwood) was running for an open State Senate seat.

Former Hillsdale mayor Richard Englander ran on the Kean slate for Senate, with Cresskill Republican municipal chairman Joseph Villani and former Haworth mayor John Johl for Assembly.

Cardinale won by about 850 votes.

In the neighboring 40th, four-term Assemblyman John Spizziri (R-Wyckoff) lost the Republican primary when Kean carried that part of Bergen County

That propelled Kean’s running mates, Oakland Councilman Cary Edwards and Ridgewood attorney Walter Kern, to a victory in the GOP primary over Spizziri and his running mate, Elmwood Park mayor Richard Mola.

Schepisi and Auth easily won re-election in 2019, despite being targeted by Democrats.  Schepisi ran nearly 2,000 votes ahead of Auth and nearly 6,000 votes ahead of Westwood mayor John Birkner and Emerson council president Gerald Falotico.

The 39th could easily become more competitive in redistricting, if municipalities in Passaic County and northwest Bergen County where replaced with Democratic-leaning towns currently in the 37th and 38th districts.

Demarest is the easternmost town in the 39th and Cardinale could wind up in the same legislative district as Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck).

Old Tappan, where Auth lives, borders Northvale, which is in the 37th.  That could potentially put him in a district with Democrats Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood).

Record for longest Senate tenure

Cardinale and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) hold the record for the longest tenure in the New Jersey State Senate: slightly more than 38 years.  The previous record of 32 years was held by Frank “Hap” Farley (R-Ventnor).

Codey, who was elected to the Assembly in 1973, is the longest-serving legislator in state history.  Cardinale won an Assembly seat in 1979 and moved to the Senate in 1981 with Codey.

Cardinale, who lost his 1977 Assembly bid, ousted Democratic incumbents Greta Kiernan (D-Harrington Park) and Harold Martin (D-Cresskill) in 1979.  He unseated State Sen. Frank Herbert (D-Westwood) in 1981.

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