Home>Campaigns>If Assembly seat opens up, Somerset GOP might invoke 2011 deal to claim it

Former Assemblywoman Denise Coyle (R-Bernards) in 2009. (Photo: New Jersey Office of Legislative Services.)

If Assembly seat opens up, Somerset GOP might invoke 2011 deal to claim it

Early posturing begins 21st district seat sparked by possible Kean retirement to focus on congressional race

By David Wildstein, January 07 2021 6:43 pm

Somerset County Republicans might want to enforce a decade-old deal that would give them the next open 21st district Assembly seat, but the Union County GOP views the accord as too long ago and they feel no obligation to honor it, the New Jersey Globe has learned.

The agreement came in the days following 2011 legislative redistricting, when the new map put Bernards Township, where 16th district Assemblywoman Denise Coyle lived, into the 21st with Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz.

In order to avoid a primary fight, Union County agreed to cede the next available Assembly seat to Somerset in exchange for giving their organization line to Bramnick and Munoz.  Coyle became a casualty of redistricting and did not seek re-election.

There is considerable speculation that State Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., who came within 1% of ousting Rep. Tom Malinowski in 2020, might not seek re-election this year to devote his full efforts to a 2022 congressional bid.

If that happens, Bramnick is widely expected to run for Senate, creating an open Assembly seat for the first time since the 2011 deal was cut.

Sources have suggested that after waiting for ten years, Somerset expects Union to keep their word.

The deal predates the current Republican county chairmen.

One of the people involved in the deal, then-Somerset GOP Chairman Al Gaburo, might be disinclined to launch a fight with Union County over an Assembly seat.

Gaburo is playing a major role in Jack Ciattarelli’s campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and will likely be more interested in Ciattarelli getting the organization line in Union County than fighting over an Assembly vacancy.

Kean, who would be focused on running for Congress if walks away from the legislature, would probably prefer both organizations steering clear of a primary.

The race to fill Bramnick’s Assembly seat began in earnest on Sunday, when Summit Republican Municipal Chairman Steve Spurr announced that he would run if Kean’s retirement triggered an open Assembly seat.

Some Republicans say that New Providence Councilwoman Michele Matsikoudis is among other possible Assembly candidate.

Somerset has not yet settled on a candidate.  Possible candidates include former Bernards Mayor Carol Bianchi, Warren Township Committeewoman Yolanda Maziarz, Bernards Mayor Janice Fields, and former Bernards Township Committeeman John Carpenter are potential candidates.

So is Coyle, who still has $50,000 remaining in her campaign warchest.

Morris County was not part of the 2011 deal and has no reason to feel obligated to follow it.  Both of the municipalities in the 21st, Chatham Borough and Long Hill, could potentially produce Assembly candidates.

And if Morris approves an organization line later this month, the contest for Assembly there could be important.

Union County makes up about 58% of the total Republican primary electorate, with 32% in Somerset and 10% in Morris.

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