Dems talking about getting Hackett out, but watch for his lawyer to tell him to stay put

Among Essex County Democrats, including Senate President Richard Codey, there has been active discussion today of replacing Mims Hackett in the 27th district Assembly race. That's Codey's district, and he clearly doesn't want to deal with even a remote possibility that an unknown Republican from his hometown might actually win this fairly solid Democratic seat.

The race is complicated by the federal probe in the 38th district, where Codey's candidate, State Senator Joseph Coniglio, is the target of yet another federal corruption probe. If Codey pushes for Hackett's withdrawal, it could be hard for him to justify his continued support of Coniglio — even though the Bergen Senator has not been charged with any crime. (Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero has a poll showing that Coniglio has a problem, but so far, the two-term Senator is resisting moves to replace him on the ballot.)

Hackett and Coniglio have each hired among the best criminal defense lawyers in the state, and are likely being given good (and standard) advice — something along the lines of "don't quit — your seat could be a bargaining chip during a plea agreement. Both might just take their Democratic districts out for a spin and see what they can do over the next two months.

So that means that two political unknowns, Mark Meyerowitz and Robert Colletti — who under normal circumstances would not even be in contention — are suddenly in the game. Meyerowitz, a 52-year-old financial planner from West Orange who worked for Ross Perot in 1992, could benefit from the presence of an independent candidate, Orange Councilman Edward Marable, on the ballot. The candidate against Codey, sausage king Mark Cinque, dropped out of the race last month, and Essex Republicans have tapped retiring West Caldwell Councilman Joseph Fisher, a former Catholic Priest, to run instead. With no candidate against Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon, the Mayor of West Orange, the GOP might be wise to leave the unbeatable Codey unopposed and make the race entirely about Hackett in a district where independent suburban voters are still in the majority. Worst case scenario: Democrats lose the seat for two years; it's not like they wouldn't win it back in 2009. Dems talking about getting Hackett out, but watch for his lawyer to tell him to stay put