After news broke that New Jersey legislative district 40 Assemblyman Scott Rumana had been nominated for a Passaic County Superior Court judgeship, Wayne Republican leader Michael Marotta expressed interest in serving out the remainder of Rumana’s unexpired term. As part of a slate running in the district in 2017, Wyckoff Mayor Kevin Rooney also expressed interest in running for the spot. However, Marotta quickly gained support from many in the Republican-leaning district.
In April 2016 Passaic County Clerk Kristin Corrado announced that she would be running for state senate in 2017 with Rooney and former Wyckoff Mayor Chris DePhillips as her Assembly running mates. While the slate initially had widespread support in district 40, that support faltered in October after the man in charge of assembling the slate—Peter Murphy—was spotted at a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy attended by Jon Bon Jovi.
That distancing is germane to Marotta due to his connection to the North Jersey Republican PAC, a group that made a 2015 donation of $1,000 to the primary campaign of Democratic Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) according to reports filed with ELEC (the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission).
In 2015, Marotta was listed on the PAC’s ELEC Committee Sworn Statement as “Committee Chairperson.” However, when contacted about the donation Marotta said that he is not the chairperson and is instead on the PAC’s committee. Marotta named Dan DeMarco as the committee chairperson.
“I am not the chairman of the North Jersey Republican PAC,” Marotta said via phone conversation. “I have never been a chairperson of NJR PAC. I am on the committee.”
Marotta claimed he had no knowledge of the donation to Schaer. He said that DeMarco signed off on the check and that Treasurer George Decker filled out the paperwork that listed Marotta as chairman. Though the form also has his signature, Marotta said he was unsure of why he was listed that way.
“That wouldn’t be something that I would have done if I had known about it. I wouldn’t be giving money to a Democratic organization. I am a listed Republican. We don’t give money to Democrats,” Marotta said. “I didn’t do it. You’re not supposed to contribute to the opposite party.”
Earlier this month, the three chairmen from the district, Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) Chairman Paul DiGaetano, Passaic County Republican Chairman John Traier and Morris County Republican Chairman John Sette issued a joint statement renewing calls for a new ticket to represent the 40th district. That letter said that the withdrawal of support for Corrado and her team was due to Murphy’s association with Democratic candidates.
On Monday, the announced district 40 slate (Corrado, Rooney and DePhillips) called on the chairmen to “abandon their support” for Marotta for the vacancy due to the donation. Instead the slate called on the chairmen to support Rooney’s bid for the spot.
“If the chairmen are truly concerned about choosing a dedicated Republican candidate who will work hard for the Republican agenda and Republican values, then they must disavow their support for Mr. Marotta and support Kevin Rooney,” said Corrado about the vacancy.
When contacted about Marotta being listed on an ELEC form as the chairman of a PAC that donated to a Democrat, Traier said he was not fully informed on the matter.
“At this point I haven’t really investigated it or found out whether or not it is true,” Traier said. “Right now I am supporting Marotta.”
Sette was reached but declined to comment citing a lack of information about the issue.
Bob Taschler is on the BCRO committee. On Monday, Traschler e-mailed a letter to BCRO members questioning why Marotta was chosen to fill Rumana’s vacancy. In the letter, Taschler questioned the North Jersey Republican PAC donation to Schaer as well as Marotta’s employment with the Passaic Valley Water Commission. He said that he believes BCRO members are “owed a complete explanation.”
The letter read: “Why would Chairman Paul DiGaetano select a fellow who works for democrats and donates to democrats to run for a Republican office? Will Michael Marotta be a puppet for the democrats or a puppet for Chairman Paul DiGaetano?”
DiGaetano, Decker and DeMarco did not respond to inquiries from Observer.