Once viewed as among the state’s most politically regions in New Jersey, the 38th has become a “blue district” and Republicans will not even compete there this fall. Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce has told Bergen County Republicans that his leadership PAC will not play in the 38th, where incumbent Joan Voss and Freeholder Connie Wagner face Republicans John Driscoll and Renee Czaplicki.
For a short while, it looked like District 38 would be in play: State Senator Joseph Coniglio, the target of a federal corruption probe, was refusing to exit the race. A Democratic poll predicted that the taint of a federal investigation would result in Coniglio’s defeat, and some pundits believed that the scandal could take down the Democratic Assembly candidates as well.
But Coniglio did buckle to party pressure, and his successor, Assemblyman Robert Gordon, is now the strong favorite to hold the Democratic Senate seat this November against former Elmwood Park Councilman Robert Colletti. With the disappearance of a weak top of the ticket, DeCroce has – accurately – concluded that Voss and Wagner will win too.
One seat in this district was Republican as recently as 2003, when Rose Heck left the Assembly to run unsuccessfully for State Senator. The 38th was one of the districts were Democrats fared best during the 2001 legislative redistricting. Two big Democratic towns, Fort Lee and Fair Lawn, were added that year, contributing to the defeat of GOP State Senator Louis Kosco by Democrat Coniglio. Republican Guy Talarico (who became the Bergen County GOP Chairman) lost his Assembly seat when mapmakers moved his hometown, Oradell, into the 39th. Nine-term Republican Nicholas Felice of Fair Lawn, who was moved from the safe 40th to the 38th, lost his seat to Democrat Matthew Ahearn. Heck won by 468 votes, and Felice lost by 667.
In 2003, Coniglio easily defeated Heck, 56%-44%, and the two Republican Assembly candidates, embattled Freeholder Louis Tedesco and former Fair Lawn Mayor Edward Trawinski, lost by wide margins.
For a short time, it looked like Coniglio might overcome the curse of the 38th: since the district was created in 1973, every incumbent Senator has ultimately been defeated for re-election. Republican Fred Wendell lost to Democrat John Skevin in 1973. Skevin served two terms and was unseated by Republican John Paolella in 1981. After just two years, Paolella was upset by Democrat Paul Contillo, who served two terms before his 1991 defeat by Kosco — who held on for ten years before Coniglio beat him.