Handicapping LD38’s local contests for 2016 (and beyond)

By Matthew Gilson | The Save Jersey Blog

As we continue our trip around the county analyzing the local landscape for 2016, Save Jerseyans, our next stop after LD36 is a place where Republicans struggled heavily in 2015: District 38.

Today, we take a look at five towns with another five on tap for our next installment (Glen Rock, Hasbrouck Heights, Saddle Brook, Maywood, and Bergenfield). Two other towns have either non-partisan May elections (Lodi) or do not have seats up in 2016 (Fair Lawn).

Here is where we stand a year out:

Current Makeup: 4 Democrats, 2 Republicans (Democratic Mayor)
2016 Incumbents: Steve Sullivan (R) and Jeanne Weber (R)

Home to Garden State Plaza and the most stringent blue laws around, Paramus politics often get overshadowed by the shopping mecca nature of the town. It’s a swing town at the center of the county which serves a gateway between the Democratic-leaning southern portion of the county, and the wealthier more Republican northern section. Home to County Executive Jim Tedesco (who Democrats wasted no time already naming the town building after), his daughter assumes a seat on the council in January replacing Republican Donna Warburton. Next year, Paramus defends their remaining two Republicans seats with two candidates who won heavily in 2013. The Paramus Democrats, fueled by Tedesco and popular Mayor Rich LaBarbiera, are always a tough out and Republicans will need to mount a strong effort to avoid being shutout.

New Milford
Current Makeup: 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans (Republican mayor)
2016 Incumbents: Dominic Colluci (R) and Diego Robalino (R)

Colluci and Robalino have formed a strong duo and won a convincing victory in a town which usually produces some of the narrowest margins on a consistent basis. Republican Matt Seymour lost by around a dozen votes this year, and that is not uncommon in the town. The two incumbents are popular and favored based on this and their past performance, but it is never impossible to count out either side and the only thing which appears certain is a close race.

Oradell Town Hall (via www.oradell.org)
Oradell Town Hall (via www.oradell.org)

Current Makeup: 4 Republicans, 2 Democrats (Democratic mayor)
2016 Incumbents: Garrie Murphy (R) and Eric Schuler (R)

Last year was a solid wake-up call for the Oradell Republicans who were beat by a better than 2-1 margin facing Democrats for the first time in years. The defeat can be interpreted as signaling strong dissatisfaction with some Republicans supporting the installation of a civil police director instead of the current chief. Problems are rampant in OPD and, at times, this year a lieutenant was the highest ranking official in the department. Republicans Garrie Murphy and Eric Schuler are the two incumbents up; expect Democrats to continue their assault on the Republicans attempts to shuffle the police. Murphy is the one who is spearheading the police change, and sources confirm that Republicans may attempt to primary Murphy in an attempt to preserve their seats.

River Edge
Current Makeup: 4 Democrats, 2 Republicans (Republican mayor)
2016 Incumbents: TBD (R) and Ellen Busteed (D)

River Edge Republicans had a banner year in 2015 getting Councilman Ed Mignone elected mayor and winning the seat that Anthony Cappola vacated to run for the assembly. The Republicans will be defending whomever they put into Mignone’s seat, as well as attempting to oust a Democrat to gain control of the town. It should be a critical year with so much at-stake and the Republicans will be working overtime to make sure they recruit the best possible candidates.

Rochelle Park
Current Makeup: 4 Republicans, 1 Democrat (Mayor chosen from Committee)
Incumbent: Jay Kovalcik (R)

One of the biggest 2015 shockers came in Rochelle Park where Democrats broke the Republican stranglehold on the town and entered town government. They now have a chance to knock off another Republican, but that would be a tall order. The power team of Valenzuela and Scarpa do not come up again until next year, but expect Republicans to ramp up efforts to make sure that the Democrats gain is a short-lived experiment and not a sign of things to come in the town.