One of the most conservative members of the New Jersey State Senate will become the new ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, putting Michael Doherty (R-Oxford) in a key role as the Senate considers the nomination of former ACLU lawyer Rachel Wainer Apter to the state Supreme Court, sources close to Senate Republicans said.
Senate Minority Thomas Kean, Jr. will name Doherty to succeed Gerald Cardinale, who died last month at age 86 and spent nearly 40 years in the Senate as a resolute watchdog over judicial nominees from both parties.
Kean will also appoint State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland) to fill Cardinale’s seat on the Judiciary Committee, sources said.
Doherty, a 57-year-old West Point graduate and retired U.S. Army officer, is widely viewed as equally as ideological as Cardinale was, but perhaps less willing to strike a deal on gubernatorial nominations.
“Mike is a veteran senator. He’s got a strong conservative streak to him,” said former Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt. “He’s never been shy. We’re grateful to have him and I’m sue he’ll show the same enthusiasm for this as he has during his entire tenure.”
Democrats have an 11-4 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
One Republican member, Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg), is not seeking re-election. That will open up another Republican seat on the panel – Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) has the fourth seat – in January.
Since Kean is not seeking re-election, the Bateman seat – and the others, for that matter – will be named by the new Minority Leader.
It’s also not immediately clear what the composition of the Judiciary Committee will be. The number of Republicans could go up or down, depending upon the outcome of the election.
This story was updated at 9:49 AM with comment from Steinhardt.