Bergen County Freeholder Julie O’Brien, who just narrowly lost re-election, remains in office until next month. But her name has already surfaced as a possible candidate for the seat of Freeholder Tomas Padilla, who will not run again next year.
“I’ve heard people throwing my name out there, too,” said O’Brien in a phone interview. “It’s something that I have to sit down and discuss with my family. I’m not even off the board yet. It’s very new. It’s something that I need to weigh out very carefully and talk to my family about, so I’m not even prepared to comment on it.”
O’Brien came in third on Election Day after Republican Rob Hermansen, who beat her by a little under 1,500 – less than 1%.
Party leaders and elected officials have mixed views on the prospect of an O’Brien candidacy. Those who are more supportive note that she already has name recognition, and argue that her loss can be attributed mainly to circumstances beyond her control. Those not warm to the idea see a deep bench of potential candidates and no need to recycle..
“I think she has the right of first refusal,” said one high ranking source in the party who wants O’Brien to run.
Bergen County Democratic Chairman Michael Kasparian, however, said that the selection process has not yet begun.
“It’s just premature at this point for us to be making statements as to who may or may not be in the running,” he said. “At this point, nobody has got the upper hand. It’s something that seriously needs to be considered by not just me but several people in the party. We intend to address this within the next couple weeks.”
Kasparian said that he hopes the party has settled on a single candidate to endorse by January.
Others who pop up as top prospects are Dumont Mayor Matt McHale, who is the Bergen County Democratic Organization’s executive director, and Cliffside Park Councilman Ken Corcoran, a commissioner for the Bergen County Improvement Authority.
Padilla, a Hackensack police captain, said that he’s leaving the freeholder job to spend more time with his three young children.
“It’s all about family,” he said.
Padilla said that his decision had nothing to do with a lawsuit filed by Hackensack police officers against Police Chief Ken Zisa that names him as a co-defendant.