The arrests of two Democratic Assemblymen could impact the mid-term elections just two months away. Mims Hackett represents the 27th district, where there are enough suburban Essex voters to potentially create an opportunity for Republicans, despite the popularity of Senate President Richard Codey at the top of the ticket — if Hackett remains a candidate for a fourth term.
The Republican candidate is Mark Meyerowitz, a 52-year-old financial advisor from West Orange and son of a Holocaust survivor, whose only political experience was volunteering for Ross Perot in 1992. The GOP did not nominate a second Assembly candidate, and incumbent John McKeon, the Mayor of West Orange, is considered a shoo-in for re-election anyway.
The district includes West Orange, Livingston, Roseland, Caldwell, North Caldwell, West Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Maplewood, South Orange, Orange and a small part of Newark.
PoliticsNJ.com's Matt Friedman spoke to Meyerowitz this morning and told him that his opponent had been arrested.
“I’m not really a politician — I don’t really stay in the political loop so much," said Meyerowitz. “I’m shocked. I really can’t give a reaction, because I don’t know anything about it. This is the first I heard about it. I had no idea he was being investigated of anything, but you know, everyone’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Asked whether he thought Hackett's arrest on corruption charges would suddenly propel him to contender status, Meyerowitz said: “I don’t want to take advantage of anyone’s problems. We have to discuss the real issues in the state, and that is the policies are just no good, and the democratic assemblymen in the district — they’re not challenging the establishment and that’s something we need done.”
"Naturally it would be great to win the race — you don’t enter this thing lightly," Meyerowitz said. "Realistically it’s time to talk about what’s going on in the state — the problems we have. If this is a forum to discuss the problems and show people that it doesn’t have to be the way it is, ok fine I’ll take it on. I realize the district is heavily Democratic, but one of the reasons I was running I looked at the Democratic governors‘ websites, and you see around the country that Democratic governments, not just Republicans, are often cutting waste and taxes, and I’m saying why aren’t New Jersey Democrats doing the same as (other) Democrats around the country?"
Democrats have a little less than a month to decide if they want to push Hackett to withdraw from the race and replace him on the ballot — or take their chances with a candidate under indictment. One insider suggests that this puts Codey in a tough position: why dump Hackett in his own district, but continue to support State Senator Joseph Coniglio, the target of a federal corruption probe, in the 38th?
Earlier this year, when there was speculation that Essex Democrats might seek to drop Hackett from their ticket, potential candidates included: Phil Alagia, the Chief of Staff to the Essex County Executive and one of North Jersey's best campaign operatives; Essex County Freeholders Linda Lordi-Cavanaugh and Patricia Sebold (who both lost to Hackett, narrowly, in the 2001 primary), Caldwell Mayor Susan Gartland; Livingston Mayor Steven Santola, mental health advocate Bob Davidson; Maplewood Mayor Fred Profetta; and Stacey Jennings and Terriann Moore-Abrams, both South Orange Village Trustees. Jennings and Moore-Abrams are African-American women.
The 35th district, represented by Alfred Steele, is heavily Democratic — it includes the City of Paterson. The district elected a Republican in 1990, when Assemblyman Cyril Yannarelli was indicted. They held the seat until Steele beat Republican Donald Hayden in 1995. His opponent is Chauncey Brown III, who is an elected member of the Paterson Board of Education.
The arrest of Passaic Mayor Sammy Rivera could potentially — although less likely — affect the political environment in the 36th district, where Democratic legislators are seeking re-election. And the arrests of officials in Pleasantville, whose names have not yet been releases, are likely to impact the hotly contested secon district legislative race.