Over the last twenty years, contests for Essex County Executive were among the most exciting in the state. In 1986, Democrat-turned-Republican Nicholas Amato ousted incumbent Peter Shapiro, who had been the Democratic candidate for Governor the year before. For years later, Amato switched back to the Democratic side, but the nomination went to Sheriff Thomas D’Alessio, who narrowly beat the Deputy Mayor of Millburn just as Governor Jim Florio began to increase taxes. By 1994, D’Alessio was in prison and Republican James Treffinger defeated East Orange Mayor Cardell Cooper, who had won the Democratic primary by a single-digit margin over Thomas Giblin. Treffinger won re-election narrowly (52%) in 1998 against former Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson — that was between the indictment Gibson beat and the one he did not. In 2002 it was Treffinger who was in trouble — he was the front runner for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination (against Bob Torricelli) when FBI agents raided his Newark office, ending his political career. Democrats had a hotly contested primary between Giblin, the former Democratic State Chairman, and Joseph DiVincenzo, then the Freeholder President. The general election featured DiVincenzo and anti-county government, anti-Newark Arena Candace Straight, a GOP fundraiser former Sports Authority Commissioner who spent over $500,000 of her own money. But as DiVincenzo prepares to seek re-election to a second term in 2006, he looks extraordinarily solid: he has no major problems among the traditionally divisive Essex Democrats, and Republicans have few prospects to run a competitive race. And after DiVincenzo’s Chief of Staff, Phil Alagia, delivered an 85,500 vote plurality as head of Jon Corzine’s Essex County campaign, possible opponents are running away.