This could be the year New Jersey gets to see if Stephen Borg, the 39-year-old Publisher of The Record, decides to show he is as tough and influential as Richard “Skip” Hidlay, the Executive Editor of the Asbury Park Press. In 2003, Hidlay took on politicians viewed as ethically challenged and played a key role in the defeat of one of the state’s most powerful elected officials, Co-Senate President John Bennett. The Record has been hard on State Senator Joseph Coniglio, who is the target of a federal corruption investigation as he seeks re-electon to a third term in November — though not to the level that the APP was on Bennett.
It wil be interesting to see if Borg decides to make Coniglio’s legal woes a front-page story every day, as Hidlay did with Bennett. And are we comparing apples and oranges: Bennett had a first-tier opponent in Ellen Karcher, a Marlboro Councilwoman with a political pedigree, while Coniglio’s rival, former Elmwood Park Councilman Robert Colletti, has not raised much money, and is struggling to get the cash-strapped state GOP to help him.
The Record is no stranger to hammering someone they don’t like. Many Bergen politicos credit the newspaper with the defeat of then-Assemblyman Ken Zisa in his race for Bergen County Sheriff againt Republican Joel Trella.
Still, it may not be The Record who forces Coniglio out of the race, but rather the pragmatic Bergen County Democratic Chairman, Joseph Ferriero.
Some pundits say that had Bennett dropped out of the race, the Republicans would have been able to hold the 12th district Senate and Assembly seats. But Coniglio lacks Bennett’s testicular fortitude: if Ferriero tells him to go, he’s not likely to stand up to the boss.