Dick Codey is accustomed to winning contested Democratic primaries. For the former governor, the Roseland War is part of his political wheelhouse.
Back in 1973, the 26-year-old county committeeman from Orange was the top vote-getter in a State Assembly primary. He outpolled his running mate, an incumbent Assemblyman, and beat three other Democrats, including the son of popular Democratic congressman Joe Minish.
Four years later, amidst the backdrop of a competitive three-way State Senate primary, Codey easily came out on top of a five-candidate field of Assembly candidates.
When Pat Dodd have up his State Senate seat to run for Governor in 1981, Codey ran to replace him. He won the Democratic primary with 55% of the vote against West Orange Councilwoman Gayle Rosen (33%) and Orange Councilman James Brown (12%).
Seeking a second term in 1983, Codey faced an expensive – nearly $300,000 — and bitter primary challenge from Orange Mayor Joel Shain. Codey won that primary by 4,125 votes – 63%-19% — with former Essex County Freeholder Russell Fox finishing third with 9% in a five-candidate field.
In 1991, Codey faced another Senate primary – this time from his onetime running mate, former Assemblywoman Mildred Barry Garvin. A five-term legislator, Essex Democrats had dumped her from the organization line four years earlier. Codey beat her 61%-39%.
Seeking a fifth term in the Senate in 1993, Codey was feuding with Essex County Executive Thomas D’Alessio, who was also the Democratic County Chairman. D’Alessio dropped Codey from the organization line and ran Assemblyman Robert Brown, who was also the mayor of Orange, against him.
Codey formed his own ticket, and an alliance with East Orange Mayor Cardell Cooper – also on the outs with D’Alessio – and beat Brown by 4,885 votes (60%-40%). Codey swept in his two running mates, LeRoy Jones and Nia Gill, against the D’Alessio slate.
After legislative redistricting took East Orange and Montclair out of Codey’s district in 2001, Codey ran in a newly-drawn West Essex district. Essex County Democrats offered Codey the organization line for Senate on a ticket with two freeholders running for Assembly, Linda Lordi Cavanaugh and Pat Sebold. Codey turned it down, ran off the line (unopposed) with his own Assembly candidates, West Orange Mayor John McKeon and Orange Mayor Mims Hackett. Codey ran that campaign, and McKeon and Hackett won — McKeon by 1,448 votes over Sebold and Hackett by 626 votes against Cavanaugh.
The alliances continue today: McKeon and Codey are close allies, while Sebold, still a freeholder, is part of DiVincenzo’s team.