Candura outwits Morris GOP Senators

Gov. Jon Corzine might have pulled a rabbit out of his hat by suddenly finding an extra $400 million for his budget, but the political trick of the week goes to Morris County Democratic Chairman Lewis Candura. Frustrated by his inability to select a new Superintendent of Elections to replace the late Rosemary Travaglia without having State Sens. Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton) and Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville) block the gubernatorial appointment, Candura picked Frank Herbert, a 78-year-old retired English teacher from Rockaway. Herbert served one term as a Democratic State Senator from Bergen County (1978 to 1982), and Senate rules do not permit senatorial courtesy to be used to block a former member of the upper house.

Herbert is actually a good pick for Morris County Democrats: younger than the state’s current senior United States Senator, he first won public office in 1969 when he was elected Waldwick Councilman. He won a race for Bergen County Freeholder in 1973 — the Watergate landslide year — defeating future Congressman Harold Hollenbeck. (Hollenbeck, elected to the State Senate in 1971, opted to run for Freeholder instead of re-election.)

Defeated for a second term as Freeholder in 1976, Herbert ran for an open State Senate seat in 1977. The 39th district had gone Democratic in 1973, elected Raymond Garramone to the State Senate and two Democrats to the State Assembly.

Instead of seeking a second term in the Senate, Garramone instead ran for Governor — unsuccessfully challenging incumbent Brendan Byrne in the Democratic primary. The Republicans ran John Markert, who had won one of the Assembly seats in 1975. But Byrne carried the 39th in the general and helped Herbert score a 53%-47% victory in the Senate race

Four years later, the Republicans ran Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest), who had lost an Assembly race in 1977 but won in 1979. Cardinale easily defeated Herbert, 58%-42% — a margin of nearly 11,000 votes.

Herbert resurfaced thirteen years later. Retired from his teaching job at Secaucus High School (he was Chairman of the English Department while future Hudson County Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto chaired the Business Department), Herbert was living in Sussex County in 1994 when the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 11th district, Daniel Tauriello, filed petitions with 203 signatures — just three more than he needed. Populist John Kuckek, an unabashed support of the Ku Klux Klan and Holocaust revisionist, successfully challenged Tauriello’s petitions.

Herbert volunteered to run as a write-in candidate and defeated Kucek in the Democratic primary by a massive 70%-30% margin — 5,976 to 2,560. After Republican U.S. Rep. Dean Gallo withdrew from the race for health reasons, Herbert lost to then-Assemblyman Rodney Frelinghuysen by a 71%-28% margin.

In 2007, Herbert ran for State Senator and lost to Bucco by a 61%-39% margin.