You’re doing a heck of a job, Lancie

Among the 400 people who attended Democratic State Senator Paul Sarlo’s fundraiser last week were three Republican Mayors from the 36th district: Joanne Cocchiola of Nutley, James Cassella of East Rutherford, and Frank Calandriello of Garfield. That’s bad news for Senate Republicans, who need to win three seats to take control of the State Senate in 2007; pundits seem to agree that the only Democratic Senators even remotely vulnerable are Frederick Madden, Ellen Karcher and Sarlo. Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, who runs the Senate GOP campaign operation, never contacted Cocchiola to discuss her possible recruitment as an ’07 candidate. Insiders say the short list of potential Sarlo challengers is now headed by Vincent Micco and Jose Sandivol, who each won 28% of the vote in their 2006 congressional bids against Steven Rothman and Bill Pascrell, respectively. (Sandivol lost his 2005 race for State Assembly in the 36th by more than 9,000 votes.) Sarlo, elected to the Senate in a 2003 Special Election Convention after Garry Furnari resigned to become a Superior Court Judge isn’t like to be intimidated by Lance anyway. After his latest fundraiser, which featured Senate President Richard Codey, Sarlo now has over $550,000 in his warchest, according to his campaign staff. That’s about $200,000 more than Lance has in his statewide legislative leadership PAC. Republican strategists view Cocchiola as a potentially strong candidate against Sarlo. 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 same goes for Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan.

You’re doing a heck of a job, Lancie