Upper Saddle River Councilwoman DeAnne DeFuccio won a special election convention for State Assembly in the 39th district to fill the seat vacated by Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale).
DeFuccio defeated Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti by seven votes, 88-81, a 52%-48% margin.
Schepisi was elected to the Senate earlier this month following the death of Gerald Cardinale, who had served in the Senate for nearly 40 years. She resigned the Assembly seat she’d held for almost a decade before she was sworn in to the Senate last week.
In a March 9 special election convention, Schepisi defeated Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan) by eight votes, 111-103.
“After an election last night and one a few weeks ago, I appreciate that the county Committee came out again tonight and chose the candidate they felt was the best choice for D39,” DeFuccio said. “I enjoyed campaigning with Bob. I look forward to working together with Holly and Bob as part of the District 39 Team representing all of our constituents.”
Initially, DeFuccio had been slated to run with Auth on a ticket headed by Cardinale.
DeFuccio, the granddaughter of William F. Kelly, a state senator from Jersey City for 16 years, is now expected to run on the Bergen County Republican organization line for a two-year term in the June primary on a slate with Schepisi and Auth.
But DeFuccio and Auth appear likely to face a primary challenge.
Former Saddle River GOP Municipal Chairman Jon Kurpis told the New Jersey Globe that he intends to team up with Azzariti.
“We will run off the line if that’s the way it works out,” Kurpis said. “I don’t think (Bergen County Republican Chairman) Jack (Zisa) should placate Auth. He’s the chairman and I’ll respect his wishes and run off the line if he insists.”
An attorney, DeFuccio was appointed to the borough council in March 2020 after 90-year-old Councilman Roger Bernadine stepped down.
In 2020, DeFuccio won a full term on the council by 1,021 votes against Democrat Richard Medina.
Once a Republican stronghold, Joe Biden won Upper Saddle River by two votes over Donald Trump last year.
Kelly was elected to the State Senate in 1957 at a time when each county had just one senator. He sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1969, finishing second in six-candidate field. Former Gov. Robert Meyner, seeking a comeback, defeated him by a 45%-23% margin.
A former Jersey City municipal court judge and Hudson County Sheriff, Kelly served in the Senate until his retirement in 1973. He served in Meyner’s cabinet as president of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission in the 1960s and was the Hudson County Democratic Chairman from 1971 to 1973.
DeFuccio’s mother, Mary Anne, was one of Kelly’s six daughters. Senator Kelly died in 1989 at age 78.
This story was updated at 9:34 PM with comment from DeFuccio and Kupris.