Speculation that Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Fanwood) could be headed to the Board of Public Utilities raises a question regarding political control of the BPU.
Stender is reportedly under consideration for the seat currently occupied by Frederick Butler, a BPU Commissioner since 1999. Some Democrats, sources say, are not happy that Gov. Jon Corzine might dump Butler, who spent seventeen years on the Assembly Democratic staff, including seven as Executive Director.
If Democrats lose the 2009 gubernatorial election, the new Republican Governor would be able to designate one of the Republican Commissioners to serve as President. The current BPU President, Jeanne Fox, would retain her seat, but the new Republican Governor would have the option of elevating one of the GOP Commissioners, former State Sen. Nicholas Asselta (R-Vineland) or former Assemblywoman Elizabeth Randall (R-Hillsdale), to the presidency.
BPU Commissioners serve six year terms, and traditionally the party that controls the governorship gets three of the five seats. But if the Senate confirms a new BPU appointee, it would stop Republicans from holding a majority of seats until 2012, when Joseph Fiordaliso is up.
The only leverage the GOP has in the appointment process is senatorial courtesy. Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) could block Stender, and State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) could block Butler. Union County Republicans would not be pleased if Kean signed off on Stender.
One potential ally for the Republicans is Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland), who may prefer to see Butler remain on holdover status until after the election. That way Codey could protect Fiordaliso, his friend and former Deputy Chief of Staff, who would surely be a goner under a GOP Governor.