Home>Campaigns>Update: N.J. police union endorses, then drops, Oath Keepers leader seeking State Assembly seat

Edward Durfee, the Northern NJ Regional Director of the Oath Keepers and a Republican candidate for State Assembly in the 37th district. (Photo: Facebook).

Update: N.J. police union endorses, then drops, Oath Keepers leader seeking State Assembly seat

Fraternal Order of Police stays out of gubernatorial race, endorses Democrats in key State Senate races

By New Jersey Globe Staff, September 16 2021 2:08 pm

The New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police endorsed a leader of the controversial Oath Keepers group for a State Assembly seat in Bergen County, but then pulled their endorsement three hours later after learning that their candidate played a role in the protests at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

The state’s second-largest police union, which is staying out of the governor’s race between Phil Murphy and Jack Ciattarelli, initially gave their Assembly endorsement in the solidly-Democratic 37th district to Edward Durfee, the Northern NJ Regional Director of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government militia group that prosecutors think was involved planning of the January 6 events.

But the FOP claims it didn’t know about Durfee’s role with the Oath Keepers.

Durfee’s running mate, 82-year-old Perley Patrick, remains on the endorsement list.  Perley is a Durfee supporter.

They face two Asian American women on the Demcoratic side: Tenafly Demcoratic Municipal Chair Shaima Haider and former Englewood Cliffs Councilwoman Ellen Park.

The  the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security identified the Oath Keepers as a moderate domestic terrorism threat under Gov. Chris Christie in 2016.  Durfee has been identified as playing a minor security role in the organization of the January 6 protest at the Capitol, but there has been no allegation that he ever entered the building.

The FOP went with Republican Claire Swift, a former deputy attorney general, in the 2nd district State Assembly race, and the Democratic incumbent, John Armato (D-Buena).  The union endorsed Democratic Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) but passed on his running mate, former Montgomery Mayor Sadaf Jaffer, for an open 16th district Assembly seat.

The union announced support for Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) and Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) for Senate in two Republican-held districts, and for party-switching State Sen. Dawn Addiego (D-Evesham).

Mazzeo faces Vince Polistina (R-Northfield) in the Atlantic County-based 2nd district.  Polistina, a former assemblyman, won a special election convention for State Senate to replace Republican Chris Brown (R-Ventnor).  Brown announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election and resigned from the Senate in July to take a job in the Murphy administration.

Zwicker, a three-term assemblyman, is seeking to flip the seat of retiring GOP State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg).  The police union endorsed incumbent Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hillsborough) for re-election but made no endorsements for Zwicker’s open seat.

In the 8th district, the FOP is backing Democrats Mark Natale and Allison Eckel for Assembly.  That Burlington-based district is the best chance for Democrats to flip two open GOP Assembly seats; Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (R-Westampton) is challenging Addiego for the Senate seat and Assemblyman Ryan Peters (R-Hainesport) is not seeking a third term.

For the open Senate seat in the 21st district, the police union is backing the Democrat, Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello, against Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), the minority leader of the State Assembly.  Incumbent Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) is not seeking re-election.

But the FOP endorsed two Republicans for Assembly in that district: Minority Conference Leader Nancy Munoz (R-Summit), and New Providence Councilwoman Michele Matsikoudis, a Republican seeking Bramnick’s open seat.

The FOP is backing challengers in two districts: Democrat Vincent Solomeno against State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver) in the 13th, and Republican Susan Gaul, who is taking on seven-term State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence).

Sixteen additional Senate incumbents were unable to secure police union support include State Sens. Fred Madden (D-Washington Township), a former acting New Jersey State Police Superintendent, Ronald Rice (D-Newark), a ret and James Holzapfel (R-Toms River), a former Ocean County Prosecutor.

In the Burlington-based 7th district, the police union endorsement went to Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel), but not to her running mates: State Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Delran) and Assemblyman Herbert Conaway, Jr. (D-Delran).

In addition to backing a Republican against Turner, the FOP endorsed just one Assembly incumbent, Anthony Verrelli (D-Hopewell), and not Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton).

Among the incumbents left off the FOP endorsement list were 11 Essex County lawmakers and five from Middlesex.

“Prior to my Board meeting, thirteen members of my legislative committee worked tirelessly reviewing all the candidates and their responses to our  questionnaires. The full Board of Directors met Tuesday, September 14 and voted unanimously to endorse the following candidates for the New Jersey State Senate and State Assembly, FOP president.  “After much deliberation, the Board voted to make no endorsement for Governor in this General Election.

This story was updated at 3:37 PM.

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