There are a lot of moving pieces in Sussex County, where retirements by county commissioners and a six-term assemblyman could set up a number of moves over the next few weeks.
The announcement by Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Wantage) that he won’t seek re-election next year clears the path for Jill Space, his wife, to seek the Republican nomination for county commissioner this year.
Sheriff Mike Strada said today that he will run on a slate with Jill Space and Bill Hayden, the Republican state committeeman from Sussex County.
Two incumbent, Sylvia Petillo and Anthony Fasano, are not seeking re-election to the Board of Commissioners. The decision by the 27-year-old Fasano not to run was unexpected.
Petillo is expected to step down early, possibly within the next few weeks, and will be moving out of Hopatcong. That would set up a special election convention to fill the remainder of her term and it’s not clear if Space or Hayden will be the candidate.
The race for Parker Space’s Assembly seat is wide open, several party leaders said.
Possible candidates include former Republican State Chairman Michael Lavery, Sussex County Commissioners Dawn Fantasia and Christopher Carney, Chester Councilman Mike Inganamort, Morris County Surrogate Heather Darling, Washington Township Mayor Matt Murello.
More candidates will likely emerge for a seat that is among the most Republican in the state. While there might be an opportunity for a non-Sussex candidate to replace Space, it’s unlikely that any contender would make the cut without the blessing of Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Franklin).
Inganamort is well-known in Sussex as a former campaign manager for Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage). Lavery, a former Hackettstown mayor who served on the legislative apportionment commission, lives in Allamuchy, one of two Warren County municipalities in the 24th.
Redistricting significantly increased the amount of Morris County the Sussex-based 24th district. In addition to Mount Olive, which has been in the 24th since 2011, the new lines add Chester Borough, Chester Township, Netcong, Roxbury and Washington Township.
Sussex has no organization lines. Morris established a line last year.
Strada said he would align himself with two GOP congressional candidates: Frank Pallotta in the 5th and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean in the 7th.
Sussex-Wantage Regional School District Nick D’Agostino, who had spent last year seeking the GOP nomination for Congress against Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) in the 5th district, has announced his bid to run for county commissioner.
Jill Space is the Republican state committeewoman from Sussex County and the vice chair of the county GOP organization.