Update: Senator Cardinale told the New Jersey Globe that he has neither accepted nor rejected his responsibility to sign off on Louis Stellato’s appointment and is awaiting clarity on the residency issue. “I don’t really know where he lives,” Cardinale said. “There’s a question as to where he lives. That needs to be answered.”
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest) has not signed off on Louis Stellato’s nomination to the Sports Authority because he thinks the Bergen County Democratic chairman lives in Passaic County, sources familiar with the issue have told the New Jersey Globe.
This snag is likely to cause major chaos in Bergen County, where Democrats are already planning a special election next month to pick a new county chairman. Stellato has promised to resign his post immediately upon his confirmation by the New Jersey Senate.
Cardinale is taking the position that he doesn’t have senatorial courtesy over Stellato and that it would be improper for him to sign off on a nomination outside his county.
Stellato is registered to vote out of a funeral home he owns in Lyndhurst, where he spent twenty years as mayor and Democratic municipal chairman. Property records show that he owns a home in Woodland Park, in Passaic County. Stellato allies dispute that, saying he lives in an apartment above the funeral home.
Sources say that Cardinale plans to vote for Stellato if he appears before the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor, but that his problem is one of residency.
Cardinale is a longtime stickler for residency rules.
In 1986, he led the fight against the renomination of New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Wilentz because he was living in New York City. The Senate confirmed Wilentz by just one vote after the chief justice agreed to move back to New Jersey.
Several sources confirmed last month that Senate President Steve Sweeney has agreed to advance Stellato’s nomination on the condition that he resign the chairmanship first.
There has been speculation that Sweeney might challenge Stellato’s residency.
As Senate President, Sweeney unilaterally has the authority to recognize which senators have courtesy over gubernatorial nominations. Had Sweeney decided that Stellato lives in Passaic County, he could have assigned courtesy to the two Passaic senators, Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) and Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa).