Robert Schroeder, who spent $2.1 million – most of it his own money – in pursuit of the 2005 Republican nomination for Governor, is now the leading candidate for an open State Assembly seat in the Bergen County-based 39th district. The Washington Township Committeeman won the endorsement today of the incumbent, John Rooney, who is stepping down after 26 years in the Assembly.
As a gubernatorial candidate, Schroeder won the organization line in Ocean County, and scored a victory at the Northeastern Republican Organization convention in Bergen County. But he won just 6% of the vote in the GOP primary, finishing fifth in a field of seven candidates. He did beat former Assembly Majority Leader Paul DiGaetano and former Bergen County Freeholder Todd Caliguire.
Schroeder now faces former River Edge Councilman John Felice (the son of former Assemblyman Nicholas Felice) and Harrington Park Councilman Thomas Bettancourt for the support of the Bergen County Republican Organization. Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R-Montvale) is seeking re-election to an eleventh term, and while she is favored to win the Northeastern Republican Organization (NERO) convention on Saturday, it is possible that two other candidates might do so. The NERO vote will determine the line.
Jumping one step ahead: the winner of the Republican primary for Assembly becomes a leading candidate for State Senator in 2011, if Gerald Cardinale decides to retire. Although the nine-term Senator will be 77 when his seat is up, he has given no indication that he will leave the Senate.
If Schroeder wins, he will be the first person to run first for Governor and then win a seat in the Legislature for the first time; usually it happens the other way around. In 1989, Passaic County Freeholder Cyril Yannarelli won a special election for State Assembly, seven years after he lost the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. (Hamilton Mayor Jack Rafferty ran for Governor in 1981 and was elected to the Assembly in 1985, but that was his second Assembly race. He lost his first legislative campaign in 1969.)