Paramus viewed as key in District 38 Senate race

It might not be a coincidence that the last three state Senators from district 38 have been from Paramus.

There was Paul Contillo, then Louis Kosco, and finally Joseph Coniglio.

Now, two of the four contenders for the position are from Paramus – Mayor James Tedesco and Bergen County Freeholder Connie Wagner (who, unlike the other three, has not yet declared an intention to run for the seat).

“Kosco, Contillo and Coniglio. It’s more than a coincidence. It’s Paramus being a swing town. It’s a very powerful town,” said Contillo, who represented the District 38 in the State Assembly from 1974 to 1980 and in the Senate from 1984 to 1992.

In Contillo’s day, the 38th could have been considered a swing district. Now, in the absence of any ethical clouds hanging over candidates’ heads, Democrats are likely to coast through this election. Still, multiple sources say that even if someone from Paramus isn’t chosen for state Senator, it’s likely the town have a representative on the ticket.

Tedesco has been considered the front runner to replace Coniglio for some time. But in the event that the BCDO chooses Assemblypersons Bob Gordon or Joan Voss for the state Senate seat, the county committee could choose to elevate Wagner to an Assembly seat.

Paramus, with a population of around 25,000, is only the third largest town in the district, behind Fair Lawn and Fort Lee – the respective home towns of Gordon and Voss. It has had a Democratic Mayor since 1999 and a Democratic majority council for the last few years.

But the town’s party registration is virtually split down the middle, and the town voted for George Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. Not exactly the place where you’d turn if you’re hoping to turn out large numbers of Democrats. But it is the largest town in the 38th district that isn’t in the Democrats’ pocket, and having a popular state representative from there could help keep the town in the Democrats’ column in countywide races. Not to mention that, while it’s not strategically important for Democrats in terms of winning the district, it could be to Republicans.

“For the Republicans to have any chance of winning a race in district 38, they have to carry Paramus,” said one Democratic source who wished to remain anonymous.

But the other Democratic contenders aren’t letting where they come from discourage their hopes of being chosen as the new state Senate candidate.

“There are four people in contention,” said Voss. “May the best man or woman win.”

Gordon is not politicking while observing Rosh Hashanah, but his spokesman, Mauro Raguseo reiterated that he’s interested in succeeding Coniglio.

“Assemblyman Gordon is very interested in moving up to the Senate,” said Raguseo.

Sources have said that Tedesco may not want to give up his seat as Mayor of Paramus, itself a powerful position because of the town’s importance, and that Ferriero would not want to install a dual office-holder on the ballot. But Tedesco laid those concerns to rest, saying he would give it up.

“I would resign from the position of mayor upon the successful swearing in of me being the state Senator, and that would be in line with the spirit of the new law, which is to prevent dual office holding,” said Tedesco.

Wagner said that, while she has so far not declared her intention to run for the seat, she’s considering it.

“I’m flattered to even be considered, and that is as much as I know. So I would listen,” said Wagner. “If there’s an interest in having me, I would always listen to what people have to say.”

The BCDO will make its decision at a Sunday evening at the party’s headquarters in Hackensack.