The hullabaloo over the swearing in of Vince Polistina (R-Egg Harbor Township) as a state senator from the 2nd districts continues, with Polistina taking the oath of office from a retired Superior Court Judge.
But Democrats who control the Senate says the oath isn’t valid and that he’s not a senator until he’s sworn in by the Senate.
“It’s not official until he’s sworn in at a quorum,” a Senate Majority Office official told the New Jersey Globe.
The Senate recessed on June 30 and is not expected to return to Trenton until after the November 2 election.
Polistina, a former assemblyman, was unopposed in an August 4 special election convention to fill the unexpired term of State Sen. Christopher Brown (R-Ventnor), who resigned in July to take a job in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.
New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way certified the results of that election on August 16.
Since Senate President Steve Sweeney won’t swear in Polistina until the Senate returns in November, Polistina asked Joseph E. Kane, a retired Superior Court Judge, to administer the oath instead. That happened on Monday.
“I am honored to be sworn-in as Senator and eager to hit the ground running to serve the people of Atlantic County,” said Polistina.
The non-partisan Office of Legislative Services does not have Polistina on their roster of senators.
“There is currently a vacancy in the 2nd district, an OLS spokesperson told the NJ Globe on Wednesday.
Polistina said the delay in assuming his Senate seat is just politics. He’s the Republican nominee for Senate and Democrats, it appears, don’t want their candidate, Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield), to run against an incumbent.
“Senate President Sweeney’s refusal to swear me in is petty and partisan, but Assemblyman Mazzeo’s refusal to stand up to him is just plain weak,” Polistina said. “I don’t care what party you belong to, the people of Atlantic County should come first, and Vince Mazzeo should recognize that and tell Senate President Sweeney that Atlantic County deserves full representation in the legislature.”
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) similarly expressed disappointment that Polistina has yet to be officially seated, saying that supposed procedural roadblocks could easily be overcome.
“To the extent legislative leaders believe a quorum is required or for the oath of office to be administered by the Senate President, they have simple remedies available to alleviate their concerns. Our rules allow for quorum calls to be conducted remotely and on short notice, which we have done many times during the pandemic,” Kean said in a statement. “To not resolve this matter immediately would be to deny the people of the 2nd Legislative District the representation they desperately need and deserve during this incredibly challenging time.”
While special election convention winners have typically waited until the next session to formally assume their posts, there is recent precedent of a different direction.
Earlier this year, when Republican DeAnne DeFuccio (R-Upper Saddle River) won a special election convention to fill the vacant Assembly seat of now-State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), the lower house was also on a recess. Instead, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin swore in DeFuccio privately.
News that Polistina was administered the oath of office was first reported by WPG Talk Radio host Harry Hurley.
This story was updated at 2:39 p.m. with a statement from Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr.