Passaic County Republican group fields candidates to run in Paterson-dominated district

A Passaic County Republican group has fielded a slate of two assembly candidates to run in the heavily Democratic 35th Legislative District.

The group, called GOP Strong – a rival to the county’s establishment Republican organization — picked Lynne Anne Shortway, a 28-year-old teacher from Hawthorne whose family has long been active north Jersey Republican politics, and North Haledon community activist George Sawey.

“We are excited to have these two great candidates represent GOP Strong and the Republican Party,” said GOP Strong leader Mike Ramaglia. “This is just another indication that our organization is growing and attracting more and more supporters.”

The Passaic County Regular Republican Organization (PCRRO), chaired by Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne), is just beginning the screening process for its own legislative and county candidates. If they do field candidates in District 35, it would create the unusual situation of having Republicans compete for a chance to run in a district where Democrats typically win by huge margins.

Having assembly candidates at the top of the ticket, however, may be more for the benefit of protecting the group’s down-ballot freeholder candidates.

GOP Strong Chairman Mike Mecca looked ahead to the general election, saying that the candidates will generate enthusiasm and force Democrats to spent money on defending otherwise safe seats — money that would otherwise be spent on freeholder races or in other parts of the state.

“The money we force the Democrats to spend in District 35 will mean less money they will have to spend in the county races, which gives our GOP Strong slate a better chance to win,” said Mecca in a statement. “We are building enthusiasm for the GOP and that is something that has not happened in a while in Passaic County.”

In 2007, Republicans only put up one legislative candidate in the district: former Paterson School Board President Chauncey Brown III. His candidacy saw a faint glimmer of hope after former Assemblyman Al Steele (D-Paterson) was indicted on corruption charges as part of a series of bribery-related busts the FBI dubbed “Operation Broken Records.” Steele, however, resigned and was replaced by Freeholder Elease Evans, ending Republican hopes of making headway in the district.

In an ironic twist, Brown was indicted one year later as part of the same FBI sting that ensnared Steele.

Passaic County Republican group fields candidates to run in Paterson-dominated district