Republican strategists view Nutley Mayor Joanne Cocchiola as a potentially strong candidate for State Senate next year against Democrat Paul Sarlo in the 36th district, but sources close to Cocchiola say that the GOP Mayor has not yet heard from Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance about plans for the 2007. The first choice for the GOP, insiders say, is former Assembly Majority Leader Paul DiGaetano. But Republicans close to DiGaetano, who gave up his seat two years ago to run for Governor, are not optimistic about DiGaetano’s willingness to run. The 2001 Senate race pitted two former Nutley Mayors, incumbent Democratic Senator Garry Furnari and incumbent GOP Assemblyman John Kelly. Furnari won that race with 51% of the vote, while Kelly carried Nutley with 63%. Two years later, Sarlo won the seat with 55% against Kelly — with the Republican carrying Nutley again with 63%. In the 2005 Assembly race, Democratic Assembly candidates carried Nutley by a wide margin. Cocchiola was elected Nutley Town Commissioner in 2000 (following the retirement of her father, who had held the post for 28 years) and became Mayor in 2004 when she was the top-votegetter in the local election — running far ahead of Carmen Orechio, a former State Senate President who has served as a Commissioner and Mayor since 1968. Kelly ran in that same election and finished a distant sixth. For Republicans to be at all serious about winning control of the Senate, they will need to play heavily against Sarlo, Frederick Madden in the fourth district and Ellen Karcher in the twelfth.