There used to be something called the Curse of the 38th, a reference to six consecutive senators from the Bergen County district who found themselves tossed from the State Senate against their will.
For years, the 38th was one of New Jersey’s premier swing districts. It elected three Democrats and three Republicans between 1973 and 2001 and was the site of competitive legislative races for 40 years.
But the 38th, which under the current map saw Democratic Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Maywood) re-elected by a mere 56 votes in 2013, no Republicans are running for the two State Assembly seats.
Nominating petitions for GOP candidates Alfonso Mastrofilipo and Jerry Taylor were rejected by the state Division of Elections this week, leaving incumbents Christopher Tully (D-Bergenfield) and Lisa Swain (D-Fair Lawn) without Republican opposition in the general election.
Republicans haven’t won the district since 2001 and when it was redrawn in 2011, there were 12,479 more Democrats than Republicans. After a decade, the Democratic registration edge has jumped to 25,533, a 105% increase.
Hillary Clinton won the 38th by ten percentage points in 2016, and Gov. Phil Murphy took it by 15 points in 2017. Last year, Joe Biden carried the 38th by 19 points over Donald Trump.
State Sen. Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus) has a Republican challenger, Richard Garcia, the president of the Newark Board of education Employees Credit Union. Lagana won 60% of the vote in 2018 when he ran in a special election to fill an unexpired term in the Senate.
Back to the Curse of the 38th: it started in 1973 when freshman Republican State Sen. Fred Wendel (R-Oradell) lost in the Watergate landslide to John Skevin (D-Oradell), a former assemblyman. Skevin was beaten by Assemblyman John Paolella (R-Hackensack) in 1981, and Paolella lost his seat two years later to former Assemblyman Paul Contillo (D-Paramus). Contillo was defeated in the 1991 Republican wave election by former Assemblyman Louis Kosco (R-Paramus). In 2001, after redistricting added Fort Lee to the 38th, Kosco was taken out by former Paramus Councilman Joseph Coniglio.
Facing a federal criminal investigation and declining poll numbers, Coniglio dropped out of his 2007 re-election bid in September and was replaced by Assemblyman Bob Gordon (D-Fair Lawn).
Gordon broke the curse, winning four Senate races before voluntarily leaving the Senate to become a member of the state Board of Public Utilities.