Slow news day: Dr. King’s birthday, N.J. Dems head to Obama inauguration, Kasparian offers reform plan, and Doherty is ahead

Expect a slow day today. Government offices are closed for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, and hundreds of New Jersey Democratic officials are in Washington, D.C. awaiting the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. Keep an eye on Bergen County, which has a contest for Democratic County Chairman on Thursday, and on District 23 (Warren and most of Hunterdon counties), which has a special election convention on Saturday to fill the State Senate seat left vacant when Leonard Lance was elected to Congress.

In Bergen, the favorite to replace Joseph Ferriero is Michael Kasparian, a developer and Democratic fundraiser who appears to have the support of the outgoing chairman. Labor leader Richard “Buzz” Dressel had briefly dropped his bid for chairman when it appeared the votes were not going his way, and then quickly re-entered the race.

Kasparian has proposed a six-point reform plan for the BCDO that includes: mandatory ethics training; internet accessibility of BCDO information, including by-laws, notices and governing documents; a third-party independent audit; open and fair conventions run by a impartial third party, like a former Judge; charitable outreach; and conduct regularly scheduled subcommittee meetings.

In the contest for Lance’s Senate seat, insiders who know how to count County Committee votes suggest that Assemblyman Michael Doherty is the favorite to defeat Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow. The winner of this contest will serve until at least November 2009. There will be a special primary in June to pick a nominee to run I the November special election, where one Republican and one Democrat (and possibly others) will face off in a special election to fill the remaining 26 months of Lance’s term. Republicans are heavily favored to hold the seat.

The Doherty vs. Karrow contest will also trigger a special election convention for a vacant State Assembly seat. Hunterdon County Freeholders Matthew Holt and Erik Peterson, and Warren County Freeholder John DiMaio, are already in the race. Unless the Senate changes their schedule, the winner of the Senate contest would not be sworn in until February 23. Doherty and Karrow have not said if they would resign their Assembly seat early to allow the process of filling their seat to begin earlier. Special Election Conventions are scheduled within 7-35 days of the vacancy.