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Paramus Councilman Robert Keiser. (Photo: Robert Kaiser).

Paramus councilman might take on Lagana

Kaiser is one of a large group of Republicans touted for bid to flip Bergen-based 38th district

By David Wildstein, November 14 2022 12:01 am

Fresh off a landslide win in Paramus, Republicans are now readying a bid to unseat State Sen. Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus) and his running mates in Bergen County’s 38th district in 2023.

Paramus Councilman Robert Kaiser is exploring a bid for State Senate, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.   The 52-year-old Kaiser is a former deputy police chief in South Hackensack and won a Paramus council seat last year.

Some Republicans want Nick De Gregorio, a former U.S. Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, to run against Lagana.  De Gregorio lost a close Republican primary for Congress in New Jersey’s 5th district this year after Rep. Josh Gottheimer spent some money to propel Frank Pallotta, a weaker candidate, into the general election.

While De Gregorio has not ruled out a State Senate run, he appears more interested in running for Congress again at some point.

Richard Garcia, who won 47% of the vote against Lagana in 2021, could also emerge as a Senate or Assembly candidate.  The Saddle Brook resident who serves as CEO of the Newark Board of Education Employees Credit Union, held Lagana to a 3,826-vote win with little money or party support.

Republican sources suggest that Rochelle Park Councilwoman Gail Artola and Paramus Councilman Ace Antonio are receiving some attention for the State Assembly, where incumbents Lisa Swain (D-Fair Lawn) and Christopher Tully (D-Bergenfield).   Antonio could boost GOP chances in Bergenfield, a swing town with a significant Filipino American population.

Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler, who was vindicated earlier this month when a Superior Court judge tossed an indictment against him and called out a deputy attorney general for holding back evidence from a grand jury, could also emerge as a candidate for the legislature.

Other potential candidates for the State Assembly include: Joseph Leto, a 28-year-old Lodi councilman; Maywood Councilwoman Danyel Cicarelli;  and Cindy Quackenbush, who did not seek re-election this year after four terms on the Fair Lawn Board of Education.

Any road to a Republican majority in the legislature next year is paved through the 38th, which Gov. Phil Murphy carried by a 52%-47% margin in 2021.

Redistricting left the 38th just fractionally more Republican.

When he made his first bid for Assembly in 2013, he ran 258 votes ahead of incumbent Timothy Eustace (D-Maywood) and led the top GOP vote-getter by 314 votes.

The GOP won control of the Paramus council in 2021.  Councilman Christopher DiPiazza won a lopsided victory in the mayor’ race, becoming the first Republican mayor in 20 years.

But Republicans have faced some candidate recruitment challenges in the 38th district over the last decade.

In 2015, Anthony Cappola dropped out of the race a month before the election after POLITICO discovered a self-published book that included rants against Blacks, Jews, Muslims and gays.   It was too late to get off the ballot and Lagana beat him by nearly 6,000 votes.

In 2017, Republican Matthew Seymour dropped his Assembly bid after the primary, became a Democrat, and endorsed Lagana and Eustace.

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