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Former New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Blistan running for Cape May Democratic county chair

At least two candidates seek to succeed Kurkowski, who quit to become a judge

By David Wildstein, January 09 2023 12:42 pm

During her four years as president of the New Jersey Education Association, Marie Blistan was one of the most powerful people in New Jersey politics.

Tonight, Blistan will seek a new post that doesn’t come with anywhere near the money or clout of her old job: Cape May County Democratic chair.

Blistan will face off against Leonora Boninfante Kodytek, who ran for an Upper Township Committee seat in 2021.

Nominations could also come from the floor.  Elizabeth Casey, a former senior counsel to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission who ran unsuccessfully for freeholder in 2019 and 2020, had been considered a potential candidate.

The special election is necessitated by the resignation of Daniel Kurkowski last month to become a Superior Court Judge.

Kurkowski, a former West Cape May borough commissioner, spent less than a year as county chairman.  He won a January 2022 special election after Brendan Sciarra resigned.

As head of the state’s largest public employees union, Blistan wielded influence and power; she spent over $5 million in a bid to oust Steve Sweeney from the State Senate in 2017 and was an early supporter of Phil Murphy for governor.  Her four-year term expired in 2021 and she was succeeded by Sean Spiller, the mayor of Montclair.

Democrats have not won a county office in Cape May since 2000, when Jeff Van Drew, now a congressman and a Republican, won his last race for freeholder.

While the Cape May County Democratic chair lacks a political machine, the post would still elevate Blistan into the 2025 gubernatorial election when county organization lines still matter.

There has also been speculation that Blistan is interested in challenging State Sen. Michael Testa, Jr. (R-Vineland) in the 1st legislative district this year.

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