Home>Highlight>Who has the upper hand in a hypothetical Stack v. Sacco matchup?

State Sen. Brian Stack. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

Who has the upper hand in a hypothetical Stack v. Sacco matchup?

Incumbent state senators may be put in same legislative district

By Joey Fox, February 17 2022 12:36 pm

State Sens. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) and Brian Stack (D-Union City) have a lot in common.

They’re both white politicians from predominantly Latino towns in Hudson County. They’ve both served as all-powerful mayors of those towns for decades, Stack since 2000 and Sacco since 1991. And they’re both two of the few remaining politicians holding legislative and local office simultaneously, winning each office before new rules came into effect in 2007.

Come 2023, the two men may have something else in common: a legislative district. As the Legislative Apportionment Commission works on finalizing the next decade’s map, one possibility is that Sacco’s and Stack’s hometowns could be combined into one district in order to address Hudson County’s population growth and prevent Jersey City from being split three ways.

So if such a map comes to pass, who would have the advantage between Sacco and Stack? Based on their performance in recent elections, signs seem to point towards Stack.

In the 2021 primary election for State Senate, Stack got 8,151 votes out of Union City, while Sacco only got 4,403 from North Bergen, even though they have approximately the same population (Union City has 66,455 residents to North Bergen’s 60,773). That indicates that Stack is better at marshaling support from his hometown primary voters, who would presumably be his staunchest supporters in an incumbent-on-incumbent contest.

Stack also fared better districtwide; he got 15,560 votes total last year versus 9,832 for Sacco, indicating that Stack’s get-out-the-vote abilities extend beyond just Union City. (Stack’s district is somewhat more Democratic than Sacco’s, however, so this is a flawed juxtaposition.)

When they were last re-elected as mayor in their respective hometowns, Stack got 11,208 votes running unopposed in 2018 and Sacco got 8,907 votes in a contested 2019 race – something of a wash, in other words.

There are a number of caveats to this comparison. For one, the map’s current incarnation is not final, and the apportionment commission may still find a way to keep Sacco and Stack in separate districts.

For another, even if Union City and North Bergen are combined, there’s no guarantee Sacco and Stack will run against one another; one may choose to step aside, especially if the Hudson Democratic establishment shows a preference. Stack, as the younger of the two men and the chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee (Sacco doesn’t chair any committee), seems more likely to take up the mantle if this were the case.

On the other hand, a district that combines the two towns would not be equal parts of both, and would in fact be likely to include more of Sacco’s current territory than Stack’s. 

Even if Stack and Sacco each have their hometown bases, Sacco has represented towns like Guttenberg and West New York for the last decade (though Stack did represent many of them the decade before that) – and those towns would be more likely to be included in the new district than Stack’s current constituents in Jersey City and Hoboken.

All else being equal, Stack would likely be initially favored against Sacco, though much would depend on what the district lines look like and how the Hudson County Democratic establishment responds.

The early murmurs of a Stacko Showdown are just one of a number of complex considerations incumbents and parties will have to make as a final legislative map is crafted and adopted. 

If Stack is drawn out of his current district, could Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) swoop into a new Asian-opportunity Senate seat? Over in Essex County, if State Sen. and former Gov. Richard Codey (D-Roseland)’s district is combined with that of State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair), could he leverage his past history of representing Montclair to defeat Gill in her hometown?

Presumably, Democratic members of the commission will try to avert as many incumbent battles as possible. But a small number are likely inevitable – and the incumbents involved will have tough decisions ahead of them.

Spread the news: