Joe Coniglio has announced that he will not seek re-election for state Senate.
“I have given a lot of thought to my upcoming re-election campaign, and determined that it is in the best interests of Democratic Party, and, more importantly, my family, for me to step aside and not seek re-election to the State Senate,” said Coniglio in a statement.
Speculation about Coniglio dropping out of the race has been rampant since he received a target letter from the U.S. Attorney in July over his role in allegedly steering state grants to the Hackenack University Medical Center while on its payroll as a $5,500-a-month plumbing consultant.
In his statement today, Coniglio defended himself against any allegations.
“We decided that we could not in good conscience allow certain false perceptions to tarnish the Senate or our elected officials. This does not mean that I believe I any of the accusations attributed to me have merit," said Conilgio. "On the contrary, my decision to retire will allow me the time to fight the false accusations that my consulting work at Hackensack University Medical Center had any connection to two state grants the hospital received.
As recently as last week, Coniglio was actively campaigning to defend his state Senate seat against Republican challenger Bob Colletti. But last week's arrests were said to have destroyed any chance of Coniglio staying in the race, and last night Coniglio met with Senate President Dick Codey and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero to discuss his future.
Possible successors to Coniglio include Paramus Mayor James Tedesco, Freeholder Connie Wagner, and Coniglio's Assembly running mates Joan Voss and Bob Gordon.
Reached for comment on the way home from a bill signing, Voss said she had not heard that Coniglio dropped out.
“It’s kind of sad, because he’s done a lot of good things in the Senate and he’s sponsored a lot of really good bills, and I’m sorry to hear that,” said Voss.
Colletti, who was up until tonight Coniglio’s opponent in the state Senate race, issued a statement saying that Coniglio’s departure will not effect the race.
"We were fully expecting that Sen. Coniglio would be pressured to withdraw from the race by the political bosses who put him office,” said Colletti. “His resignation changes nothing because it's not Sen. Coniglio who is alone linked to political corruption in New Jersey, it's the county and statewide Democratic organizations that encourage or accommodate the culture of corruption.”