At a joint session of the Legislature this morning, Stephen Eells is expected to easily win election as New Jersey State Auditor. The 49-year-old accountant from Florence was the choice of the bi-partisan Legislative Services Commission and has no opposition in today’s formal vote.
The vote was originally set for January 12, when both houses were in joint session to hear Gov. Jon Corzine’s final State of the State address, but Republicans objected to the motion to approve Eells because they were taken by surprise when newly-installed Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) called for a vote.
Eells, a state government veteran, succeeds the non-political Richard Fair, a career state employee who was elected to a five-year term in 1989 and then spent fourteen years on holdover status. Other New Jersey State Auditors: James Dolan, a state government veteran who served from 1981 to 1989; George Harper (R-Layton), a former Senate President who held the post from 1964 to 1981; and former Senate President Frank Durand (R-Sea Girt), who was State Auditor from 1938 to 1964. Durand succeeded Walter Darby, who took on a new position as state Commissioner of Municipal Accounts, the predecessor of the Commissioner of Community Affairs.
Harper was the son of Harry Harper, widely known as “Hackensack Harry,” a former New York Yankees pitcher (he started the sixth game of the 1921 World Series for the Yankees against the New York Giants) and later entered politics. He was elected Bergen County Sheriff in 1927, lost a GOP State Senate primary in 1931, served as a state Civil Service Commissioner and state Labor Commissioner, lost a 1948 GOP primary for U.S. Senate, and lost a 1950 special election for Congress.