State Sen. Bill Baroni’s (R-Hamilton) impending departure from the state senate took Communications Workers of America Legislative and Political Director Bob Master by complete surprise.
“I’m pretty stunned, I have to say,” Master said in a phone interview with PolitickerNJ.com.
Now Master’s group will likely be heavily courted by candidates hoping to succeed Baroni.
“It’s very surprising. That’s about the only words I can use at this point in time. It’s not anything that I would have anticipated it all,” he said. “We’ll have to give it some thought and see where we go from here.”
Though a devout support of Gov. Christopher Christie, Baroni is considered the most pro-labor Republican in the legislature. He was endorsed by the CWA and most unions over a Democrat in 2007, and broke ranks with most members of his party to vote for paid family leave.
Baroni’s district — one of the most competitive in the state and one of only a few with both Republican and Democratic legislators – is home to the largest number of public workers in New Jersey. Couple that with Gov. Christopher Christie’s tough rhetoric on pension reform and it could be a difficult seat for Republicans to hold.
Republicans from the district’s Mercer and Middlesex County portions will meet next month to pick an interim replacement. A special election will then be held in November to fill the remaining year of the term.
Master said that his group would have a hard time deciding between the district’s two assembly Democrats, Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) and Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) if they both decide to run. But he also did not discount the potential of endorsing a Republican with a pro-labor record, noting that the pension reform bills his union opposes are being shepherded through the legislature by the state’s top elected Democrat, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford).
“Honestly right now I think we will judge them based on their attitude on what’s happening in the legislature. Baroni was a Republican, but we expected him to vote against a lot of these pension bills,” he said. “So the party label doesn’t mean very much now.”