Handicapping the LD38 GOP Contest

By The Staff | The Save Jersey Blog

While it’s not the only competitive legislative district in 2015, Save Jerseyans, few would disagree that if Republicans want to come close to an Assembly majority, they’re going to have to win District 38where Joe Scarpa lost by so few votes in 2013 that one or two large families showing up or switching allegiances could’ve made up the difference. 

ld38This district encompasses the mythical land known as “Central Bergen” as well as the Republican-friendly town of Hawthorne in Passaic County. Currently, three Republicans are competing for the right to take on two weak incumbents in November, and the battle will culminate at a convention showdown on Monday, March 16th

Need to get caught up? Here’s a rundown of the candidates and what to expect:

The Favorite: Mark DiPisa

Not unlike the 2014 freeholder convention where everyone coalesced behind Bob Avery and the real battle was for the second spot, most Bergenite pundits agree that Lodi attorney Mark DiPisa is the clear-cut favorite to emerge for one of the two seats out of the convention.  Son of a long-time councilman from Republican-leaning Hasbrouck Heights, DiPisa is the preferred pick of both the establishment players as well as those who oppose Mr. Trawinski (see below) due in large part to his ties to former Bergen Executive Kathe Donovan.  An immigration attorney now residing in Lodi, he repesents a breath of fresh air for the embattled BCRO and a strong resume for the non-incumbent ticket. While nothing is a given in politics, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the young and likeable DiPisa sail through the convention.

The Establishment Pick: Ed Trawinski

As odd as it may seem given the history between Bob Yudin and Kathe Donovan, Ed Trawinski‘s candidacy appears to have the full backing of the BCRO brain trust. Trawinski is the best-known and most experienced of the three candidates having served both as a Councilman in the most populous town in the district, Fair Lawn, as well as county administrator under Kathe Donovan. After running Joan Fragala in 2013, it is no secret that Republicans think winning Fair Lawn, or at least cutting the margin of loss there to a negligible amount, is the key to winning district-wide. Trawinski represented the next best choice from the town after Mayor John Cosgrove passed on a bid to run for re-election. His experience and seasoned political skills provide a nice balance with the youth and energy of DiPisa.

The Dark Horse: Anthony Cappola

While many thought that the team of DiPisa and Trawinski would sail through the convention with the backing of the establishment against the relatively unknown Anthony Cappola, his candidacy recently received a major boost when he picked up the endorsement of Freeholder John Felice. Both men hail from the same town, justification enough for an endorsement, but many also think that the endorsement signifies something bigger, perhaps even a desire on the part of many active party members in the district to completely distance themselves from the Donovan years. A councilman and small-business owner, Cappola presents a compelling case for his candidacy supplemented by a strong desire to campaign hard for the seat. He brings an impressive package to the ticket and is unquestionably gaining support; the question is whether it’s enough support, and garnered in enough time.

The Likely Outcome?

While Cappola continues to make inroads, most still expect a victory for DiPisa and Trawinski who we’re told have a tactical alliance. Others have suggested it could come down to Fair Lawn, where Trawinski may not be able to hold enough support to counter some other towns coming out hard for Cappola. The only guarantee: an interesting contest. Stay tuned! Whatever the outcome, all three candidates have run an exclusively positive campaign which is a major positive development for an organization renowned for its near constant and savage infighting, and the party as a whole is well-served with any combination of these gentlemen emerging from the convention.

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