The two Democratic State Senators who were served with subpoenas by the U.S. Attorney on Monday are from Democratic districts that could potentially be in play if allegations of a scandal are substantiated.
Nicholas Scutari was elected to the Senate in 2003 after Joseph Suliga dropped his bid for re-election — he defeated Republican Martin Marks, the Mayor of Scotch Plains, by a 55%-45% margin.
Joseph Coniglio won a Senate seat in 2001 when he ousted three-term GOP incumbent Louis Kosco. He was re-elected in 2003, winning 56%-44% against Assemblywoman Rose Marie Heck.
But if Scutari and Coniglio were to enter the general election season as damaged goods — something a single subpoena does not accomplish (especially in Union and Bergen counties, where Republicans are not exactly players) — there is a good chance that party leaders would simply switch candidates. They have until early October to decide that.
Scutari’s most likely successor would be Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who made lots of Democratic friends (and accumulated an impressive fundraising list) with her nearly successful challenge to GOP Congressman Michael Ferguson last year. Stender wanted to go to the Senate four years ago when Suliga was forced out, but then-Linden Mayor John Gregorio wanted Scutari, a close ally and a Union County Freeholder.
Now Gregorio is out — he lost re-election last fall to an Independent — and Stender’s strong showing against Ferguson would make it difficult for Democrats to deny her the Senate seat again.
Coniglio is a close ally of Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero, who would be unlikely to take any risks when a State Senate seat is involved. Coniglio could be replaced by Assemblyman Robert Gordon or Paramus Mayor James Tedesco.
Coniglio must also deal with the "Curse of the 38th" — each of his predecessors ultimately ended their political careers by losing campaigns for re-election to the State Senate. The district was created for the 1973 election, when Democrat John Skevin unseated Republican Senator Fred Wendel. Skevin was defeated eight years later by Republican John Paolella ). Paolella lost his seat after one term to Democrat Paul Contillo . Contillo beat Kosco in 1987, but lost his seat to Kosco in the 1991 Republican landslide. Kosco held the seat for ten years before falling to Coniglio in 2001, after redistricting added two heavily Democratic towns — Fair Lawn and Fort Lee — to the 38th.