Good morning, New Jersey.
Today is Election Day in the 39th district, where Republican county committee in 20 municipalities in Bergen County and three in Passaic will vote in a special election convention to choose a new State Senator.
The incumbent, Gerald Cardinale, died on February 20 at age 86 after a series of health issues over the last year. Cardinale had been elected to the State Assembly in 1979 and to his first of 12 terms in the State Senate in 1981. At the time of his death, he was tied for the record as the longest-serving State Senator in New Jersey history; no Republican had ever served longer in the legislature than Cardinale.
The two State Assembly members from the 39th district, Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale) and Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan), are seeking the Senate seat.
The 49-year-old Schepisi, a five-term assemblywoman, had been seeking the Republican Senate nomination in January and has been planning to challenge Cardinale for the Bergen GOP organization line. She had secured multiple endorsements from 39th district mayors and won the Passaic Republican organization line in a win that turned out to be shortly after Cardinale’s death.
Cardinale was fighting for the support of his home county organization but had no plans to run off the line in the Republican primary, the New Jersey Globe has confirmed.
Auth, 64, was a longtime Cardinale legislative aide and campaign staffer before his election to fill an open Assembly seat eight years ago.
He entered the race on February 27 with the endorsement of Carole Cardinale, the widow of the late senator.
On the morning of March 4, Auth dropped out of the Senate race and said he would seek re-election to the State Assembly.
But later that day, saying he moved too hastily, Auth re-entered the Senate race.
Schepisi has the endorsement of the two county chairmen in the 39th, Jack Zisa of Bergen and Peter Murphy of Passaic.
Voting will be conducted in-person at the Bergen County Republican headquarters in Hackensack. Party leaders said they would only allow 25 people in the building at a time so that ballots may be cast observing some social distancing guidelines.
The winner will complete the remainder of Cardinale’s current term, which runs until January 11, 2022. The new Senator could be sworn as early as next week; the Senate has a March 15 quorum call scheduled.
Either Schepisi or Auth will resign their Assembly seat to move up to the Senate. That will trigger another special election convention within 7 to 35 days of the resignation date, to fill the vacant State Assembly seat.
Once tonight’s balloting is complete, the race will reset in advance of the Bergen County GOP District 39 convention to pick candidates for the June primary. That comes this month.