Assemblyman John Rooney (R-Northvale) has still not made a decision on whether he will retire from the legislature after his current term is up.
But Rooney, who after 25 years in office has become longest serving current member of the Assembly, said that the speculation that he will face a primary challenge from Washington Township Council President Bob Schroeder, a wealthy defense contractor and former gubernatorial candidate, is wrong.
“He’s absolutely confirmed that he’s not going to run against us,” said Rooney, who had the conversation with Schroder at his own birthday party last month, which also commemorated his 25th year in the Assembly.
Rooney serves in what is perhaps Bergen County’s last bastion of Republicanism: the 39th district. Also representing the district are Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R-Montvale) and State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest).
The three faced a well-funded challenge last year by three Bergen County Democratic Organization backed Democrats, but won reelection handily.
Cardinale has actually been in the legislature longer than Rooney – starting off in the Assembly in 1980 and moving up to the state Senate in 1982. And Rooney is younger than both Cardinale, 74, and Vandervalk, 70.
Rooney, in pain from a bad knee that ultimately led to a hip replacement, said shortly after his reelection that it could be his last term. Schroeder has expressed interest in running for an Assembly seat if one opens up in his district. And he confirmed today what he told Rooney last month.
“I would not run against John Rooney in a primary, or any of the incumbents," said Schroeder. "We have enough problems in Bergen County. We don’t need in district 39."
Rooney said that he’s been feeling better since his surgery in November, and that, if he does decide to retire, he won’t give Democrats a lot of notice that a seat is opening up in the district.
“I’m not going to put any word out because the Democrats would smell blood in the water and put together a campaign against us. If I’m going to leave I’m going to give them as little notice as possible,” he said.