After a bitter race, Passaic County Clerk Kristin Corrado won the Republican primary for an open state Senate seat in a North Jersey district that heavily favors the GOP.
Corrado’s victory comes after months of trench warfare between her slate and that of her rival, Bergen County Republican Chairman Paul DiGaetano. The two sides traded fierce blows for months in the race to replace state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex).
“We had a lot of wonderful people helping us,” Corrado said after her win. “I am honored and humbled by the results.”
In another competitive GOP primary, state Sen. Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex) fended off a challenge from Old Bridge Republican Chairman Art Haney in the state’s 12th legislative district.
Haney’s decision to challenge Thompson, 82, is due in part to a deep rift between the Old Bridge Republicans and the Middlesex Republican organization. Haney made it onto the primary ballot after the county party’s convention in March, blocking Thompson from being recommended as the sole GOP candidate for the spot and forcing a primary in the Republican-leaning district.
O’Toole, a shrewd inside operator with close ties to Gov. Chris Christie, announced in January 2016 that he would not be pursuing re-election after eight years in the Senate. Corrado and her running mates — former Wyckoff mayors Kevin Rooney and Chris DePhillips — quickly announced their bid. At the time, the slate had the support of the Republican organizations from the four counties that make up the district: Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic.
But when DiGaetano was elected chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization in June 2016, the county defected from Corrado and her team. DiGaetano claimed that Corrado’s slate was the product of a backroom deal and he mounted his own bid for the Senate seat, tapping former state Sen. Norm Robertson and Joe Bubba Jr. as his Assembly running mates.
The Corrado slate got support from O’Toole. And Rooney had the benefit of incumbency. The party selected him to fill a vacancy in November, when Assemblyman Scott Rumana left to accept a judgeship.
According to Corrado’s campaign, their victory came from high voter turnout in towns such as Totowa and Wyckoff. Early vote-by-mail results from Bergen and Passaic presaged their victory.
“We are all Republicans at the end of the day, so I would hope that he would support me,” Corrado said of DiGaetano. “We all have the same goal.”