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New Jersey Firefight Mutual Benevolent Association president Ed Donnelly, right, with Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photo: Facebook.)

Donnelly drops Senate bid in 21st district

State firefighters union president won’t seek Democratic nomination to take on Bramnick

By David Wildstein, February 23 2021 1:13 pm

The head of the state firefighters union has dropped his bid for the Democratic State Senate nomination in the 21st district.

Eddie Donnelly, the president of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, has told the New Jersey Globe today that he has withdrawn his bid for the open Senate seat.

Donnelly said that his endorsement of Republican Tom Kean, Jr. for Congress in 2020 against Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) had become a distraction for his campaign.

“Winning against a seasoned elected official in a tough district would take all hands on deck rowing in the same direction,” Donnelly said.  “While there is a path to victory, some of the decision makers could not see beyond our union’s past endorsements of Republicans and see me as a lifelong Democrat.”

Donnelly defended his endorsement.

“The NJ FMBA prides itself on making decisions that are in the best interest of first responders and our membership makes educated decisions on who they feel will best represent our values and I will not apologize for that,” he said.

That leaves Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello without opposition for the seat being vacated by Kean, the Senate minority leader.

Union County Democrats have not yet designated an organization candidate and could still go in a different direction.

The presumptive Republican Senate candidate is Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), the minority leader of the New Jersey State Assembly.

Some Democrats viewed Donnelly as a strong contender with an ability to attract labor union money and votes from firefighters, police officers and first responders in the politically competitive legislative district.

Donnelly said he raised more than $100,000 in a few short weeks.

“This endeavor will be a memory I will not forget. I learned a lot over the past month,” said Donnelly.  “I will always be grateful to our friends who jumped in with both feet and believed in our vision.

The union leader promised to continue his advocacy on behalf of firefighters, “while educating the public of the mission of our great union.”

“I will continue to be a pitbull for the rights of first responders and we will continue to work with our governor and legislature to accomplish so much more for our members,” Donnelly said.

Seven Democrats are seeking party support for the State Assembly:  Cranford Mayor Patrick Giblin; Bernards Democratic Municipal Chair Elizabeth Graner; attorney Scott Salmon, who has served as counsel to Rep. Tom Malinowski’s two congressional campaigns; National Organization of Women (NOW) New Jersey president Anjali Mehrotra, the Mountainside Democratic municipal chair; Ileana Montes, a former director of the state Division of Women under Gov. Jon Corzine; Union County Director of Finance Bibi Taylor;  and Harrison Clewell, a former intern for a Hudson County assemblyman.

Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz is seeking re-election, and six Republicans want to run for Bramnick’s seat: Summit Republican Municipal Chairman Steve Spurr; New Providence Councilwoman Michele Matsikoudis; Cranford Township Committeewoman Mary O’Connor; Mountainside Councilman Rene Dierkes; Kenilworth Councilman Fred Pugliese; and Carmen Bucco, who won 2% of the vote as an independent candidate for Kenilworth Borough Council in 2020.

Donnelly did not preclude another bid for public office in the future.

“No one knows what the future holds,” he said.  “There may be a different time when decision makers can recognize the viability of a strong union candidate for State Senate.”

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