Home>Campaigns>In redistricting, North Caldwell is New Jersey’s most vagabond town

Fictional mobster Tony Soprano in front of the North Caldwell home that was the exterior of his residence. (Photo: Home Box Office).

In redistricting, North Caldwell is New Jersey’s most vagabond town

Small West Essex borough has been in nine different legislative districts

By David Wildstein, February 28 2022 12:39 pm

North Caldwell is a small suburban town of 6,694 people in northern West Essex where Tony Soprano lived.  It’s where Rep. Josh Gottheimer grew up, and where Thomas Mosser, sitting in his kitchen in 1994, was killed when he received a mail bomb from the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.

After new legislative maps are redrawn after every decennial census, no municipality in the state has been more portable than North Caldwell.  The borough has been moved to a new legislative district in each of the nine rounds of redistricting that have occurred since the 1966 Constitutional Convention on apportionment.

The new map approved this month moved North Caldwell from the 26th district, which included Jefferson in western Morris and West Milford in western Passaic, to the 40th district, which includes parts of Bergen and Passaic counties.

North Caldwell is set up to be transportable.  The borough represents 3% of a legislative district, and it borders six municipalities in Essex and Little Falls in Passaic.

Prior to 1967, Assembly seats were apportioned based on population, but legislators were chosen in at-large, countywide elections.  New Jersey created Assembly districts for the first time in advance of the 1967 election.

Essex District 11-E paired North Caldwell with Bloomfield, Cedar Grove, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Montclair, Verona and West Caldwell.  Two Republicans won that seat, Herbert Rinaldi (R-Glen Ridge) and Jack Dennis (R-Verona).  Rinaldi later became Brendan Byrne’s law partner and Dennis was the owner of the Annin Flag Company.

As New Jersey adjusted to the U.S. Supreme Court’s One-Man, One-Vote decision, the state remapped the state in 1969, 1971 and 1973.

North Caldwell went to Essex District 11-F in 1969, which extended from Irvington, Maplewood, Millburn and Livingston through most of West Essex into Fairfield.  That year, Assemblymen Thomas Kean (R-Livingston) and Philip Kaltenbacher (R-Short Hills) were re-elected.

The 1971 map moved North Caldwell into Essex District 11-D, which also included East Orange, Orange, West Orange, Caldwell and Essex Fells.  Their new legislators were Assemblymen Eldridge Hawkins (D-East Orange) and Peter Stewart (D-Caldwell).

In 1973, New Jersey moved to the current plan of 40 legislative districts that crossed county boundaries for the first time.  Each district would elect one senator and two Assembly members.

North Caldwell was placed in the new West Essex-based 25th district that went from Millburn to Wayne in Passaic County and included Lincoln Park and Pequannock in Morris.  The district had four incumbents, all Republicans: State Sen. James Wallwork (R-Short Hills), Assemblyman Michael Horn (R-Wayne), Kean and Kaltenbacher.   Horn decided not to seek re-election – when Kean became governor eight years later, Horn became State Treasurer – and the other three incumbents were unopposed in the GOP primary.

Kaltenbacher changed his mind about running for a fourth term around Labor Day and the Republican county committees instead picked former Essex County GOP Vice Chair Jane Burgio of North Caldwell to run for the Assembly with Kean.

Burgio defeated Wayne Councilman Joseph Vadala, the Republican municipal chairman, by nine votes, 77-7.   Essex had picked Burgio as their candidate several days earlier after she competed with eight others for party support.

Among the Republicans Burgio defeated at the Essex intramural was another North Caldwell resident, Ralph Caputo.  Caputo had been a GOP assemblyman from Newark’s North Ward from 1968 to 1972; his political career experienced a resurgence when he was elected Essex County Freeholder as a Democrat in 2002 and returned to the State Assembly as a Democrat from Belleville in 2007.  Caputo now lives in Nutley.

North Caldwell wound up with both Assembly seats after the 1977 election.  Kean left to seek the Republican nomination for governor, and Essex County GOP Chairman (and North Caldwell Republican municipal chairman) Frederic Remington won the open seat.  Burgio just narrowly won the general election in the Watergate Demcoratic wave, edging out 26-year-old Democrat Thomas P. Giblin by just 1,079 votes.

After Wallwork announced that he would leave the Senate in 2001 to run for Governor (the 25th district had a total of four residents running in the GOP primary), Burgio and Remington began seeking party support for the open Senate seat.

But 1981 legislative redistricting moved North Caldwell into the newly-drawn 34th district, which went from Clifton to Wayne and included Little Falls, Totowa, Woodland Park, North Caldwell, Fairfield and West Caldwell.  Passaic Republicans took all  three seats, pushing the two North Caldwell lawmakers, Burgio and Remington, into retirement.  (Burgio later spent eight years as New Jersey Secretary of State under Kean).

In 1991, North Caldwell was reassigned to the 21st district, which went from Roselle Park in Union County to Cedar Grove.

Ten years later, the newly-draw 27th district, which extended from part of Newark, South Orange and Orange to North Caldwell.  It included Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Livingston, Maplewood, Roseland, West Caldwell and West Orange.  After the 2001 election North Caldwell would now be represented in the legislature by Democrats for the first time since Joseph Mecca (D-Totowa) had ousted Republican Assemblyman Newton Miller (R-Wayne) in 1989.  It was represented by State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), Assemblymen John McKeon (D-West Orange) and Mims Hackett (D-Orange), and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-South Orange).

When new legislative districts were drawn in 2011, North Caldwell went to the 26th district, where it currently resides.  It is represented by Senate Minority Whip Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville) and Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) and Christian Barranco (R-Jefferson).

The new map puts North Caldwell and six other Essex towns – Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Verona and West Caldwell – into the 40th district, along with Wayne, Little Falls, Totowa, and Woodland Park in Passaic, and Franklin Lakes, Ridgewood, and Wyckoff in Bergen.

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