Hatfield is early front runner for Munoz seat

Republican County Committee members from District 21 will need to schedule a special election convention within seven to 35 days

Republican County Committee members from District 21 will need to schedule a special election convention within seven to 35 days to fill the State Assembly seat left vacant yesterday by the death of Eric Munoz. Hours after the death of the five-term Assemblyman, Republicans were listing several potential candidates for the Munoz seat: former Summit Council President Kelly Hatfield, Union County GOP Chairman Phil Morin, Cranford Mayor David Robinson, Berkeley Heights Mayor David Cohen, Roselle Park Mayor Joe DeIorio, former Garwood Councilwoman Patricia Quattrocchi, and Mountainside Councilman Glenn Mortimer.

Another possible candidate is Peter Kane, a longtime Summit GOP leader who ran Mike Huckabees's New Jersey presidential campaign in 2008. Huckabee will be speaking in New Jersey tomorrow at the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

Hatfield ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for Congress in 2008, but won the Union County convention; she is now the party's Finance Chair. Morin came within a handful of votes of winning an Assembly seat in a 2003 special election convention that was won by Jon Bramnick. Quattrocchi, an unpaid PolitickerNJ.com columnist, is the Union County GOP Vice Chair and has run for Freeholder, as his Mortimer. DeIorio is a longtime Munoz aide.

Republicans say the seat won't go to Westfield, where Bramnick and State Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr. live. And it is unlikely to go to anyone in Essex, Morris or Somerset counties. Bramnick and Kean are also considered potential candidates for Lt. Governor; their selection would trigger other conventions t his year.

Munoz is also the only Hispanic Republican who holds office above the municipal level in New Jersey. His death is likely to leave the Republicans without any Hispanic legislators.

Editor's Note: PolitickerNJ.com decided in 2002, following the deaths of Melvin Cottrell and Thomas Smith, to post early short lists of potential candidates in special election conventions. It would be inaccurate to believe that campaigns do not begin immediately upon the announcement of a vacancy. This one most certainly did. Hatfield is early front runner for Munoz seat