Bergen County Democrats would like Kathleen Donovan to become a Superior Court Judge within the next year, since that would increase their chances of winning the County Clerk’s post that has eluded them since Donovan first won in 1988.
There has been speculation about Donovan’s judicial ambitions before, and some Republicans say he greatest obstacle has been State Senator Gerald Cardinale, a fellow Republican who has been allied with Donovan rivals over the years. Their feud goes back to 1989, when Donovan supported Jim Courter for Governor against two Bergen candidates, Cardinale and former Attorney General Cary Edwards.
Cardinale faces a potentially tough race for re-election for a ninth term this year against Joseph Ariyan, an attorney who has raised amassed a substantial warchest. If Cardinale were to lose, it could make it easier for Governor Jon Corzine to nominate Donovan to the bench.
Donovan, a former Assemblywoman and GOP State Chairman, has been unable to move up the political ladder. She ran a strong race for Congress in 1996, when Bob Torricelli gave up his seat to run for the U.S. Senate, but lost to Steve Rothman. She lost two races for Bergen County Executive by very narrow margins: a Republican convention to Hank McNamara in 2002 and a GOP primary to Todd Caliguire in 2006. She wanted to challenge State Senator Paul Sarlo in 2003, but the wise old men of the Bergen GOP preferred John Kelly.
Some insiders say that after twenty years as County Clerk, Donovan might be interested in avoiding an expensive campaign against Joe Ferriero’s Democrats and move up to the Superior Court – or to the Board of Public Utilities — both higher paying posts with greater job security. And Democrats would like to avoid taking on the popular general election vote-getter, who is now the only Republican countywide elected official in what has become Blue Bergen.