Vince Polistina is expected to win a State Senate seat tonight when Atlantic County Republicans hold a special election convention to fill a 160-day unexpired term in the 2nd legislative district, WPG Talk Radio’s Harry Hurley reported on Wednesday morning.
The incumbent, Christopher Brown (R-Ventnor), resigned on July 19 to join Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration as a senior advisor for Atlantic City Affairs at the state Department of Community Affairs.
This marks a return to the legislature for Polistina, a 50-year-old engineering firm owner who served as an assemblyman from 2008 to 2012.
As he becomes the senator-elect, Polistina is battling Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield) for the Senate seat in the November 2 general election. The contest is widely viewed as one of the two most competitive Senate races in the state this year, and the 2nd has arguably been a swing district for most of the last 50 years.
Hurley is expecting some political gamesmanship over the timing of his swearing in.
The Senate has recessed until November, and Senate President Steve Sweeney is not expected to swear Polistina in until after Election Day.
That means that Polistina may campaign only as the senator-elect and without any of the advantages of a short-term incumbency.
But Polistina might challenge Sweeney on his swearing-in schedule, making the right of Atlantic County to be represented in the Senate an issue in his campaign.
Sweeney is strongly backing Mazzeo for the Senate – flipping the 2nd district seat helps his Senate leadership numbers – and his leadership PAC is expected to make a major investment in the Mazzeo campaign.
In 2017, Sweeney delayed swearing in State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) for nearly three months after she won a special election convention in the 40th district. Corrado was the Passaic County Clerk and a resignation before September would have triggered a November special election to replace her. Sweeney wanted to run out a clock so that a political foe, Democratic State Chairman John Currie, couldn’t run to succeed Corrado.
Following the death of State Sen. James Whelan (D-Atlantic City) in August 2017, Democrats selected their Senate candidate, Colin Bell, to replace him. He won a special election convention and Sweeney made sure he was quickly sworn in.
Earlier this year, DeAnne DeFuccio (R-Upper Saddle River) won a special election convention in the 39th district to fill the seat left empty when Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) was elected to the State Senate.
The Assembly was in recess to review the state budget when DeFuccio won on March 31, but Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, a Democrat, agreed to swear-in DeFuccio in a private ceremony ten days after her election.
That enabled DeFuccio, who was facing a serious primary challenge in June, to campaign as an incumbent assemblywoman.