The head of the state firefighter union is mulling a bid for State Senate in the 21st district, setting up a possible fight for the Democratic nomination with the only announced candidate, Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello.
Ed Donnelly, the president of the New Jersey Firefight Mutual Benevolent Association, has approached Democratic leaders in recent weeks seeking support for the seat.
Donnelly told the New Jersey Globe that he has serious interest in running for the Senate.
Donnelly, a Cranford resident, and a firefighter in Union Township, heads a politically influential labor union that represents over 5,000 career firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers across the state. He has close ties to Gov. Phil Murphy, who named Donnelly as the chairman of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System board that manages first responder pensions.
It’s still not clear who the Republican nominee will be.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) has held the seat since 2003. He is currently considering a rematch against Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) for a congressional seat he lost by just 1% last year. If he wants to run for Congress again, Kean will likely forego seeking re-election to a seventh term in the State Senate.
If Kean doesn’t run, the clear front runner for the Republican Senate nomination is Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield), the Assembly Minority Leader.
Donnelly’s union backed Kean, a former volunteer firefighter, in his 2020 bid to unseat Malinowski. The union also endorsed Cory Booker, Amy Kennedy, and nine incumbent Democratic House members.
His status as a union leader gives Donnelly access to campaign funds that previous Senate candidates in the increasingly competitive 21st district might not get.
Signorello announced his Senate bid on January 10 with a shot at both Kean and Murphy.
“Whether it is Senator Kean or Governor Murphy, both Republicans and Democrats are to blame for our current issues,” Signorello said. “Both parties have lost touch with what the average NJ resident cares about – taxes, roads, and education.”
Donnelly and Signorello would compete for the nomination on several different battlefields: a screening committee comprised of the ten municipalities in the Union County portion of the district, where each municipal chair gets one vote; and open conventions for the organization line in Somerset and Morris counties.