Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-Fort Lee) first went to Trenton in 2003 after Joseph Ferriero got spooked by the possibility that his first candidate, Edgewater Mayor Bryan Christiansen, might get attacked for his other government job: Executive Director of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC). Ferriero, who had recently become counsel to the commission, didn’t want the PVSC to become an issue in the District 38 campaign, so he pulled Christiansen out of the Assembly race and replaced him with Voss. The 38th was still viewed as politically competitive then: incumbent Republican Assemblywoman Rose Heck was challenging freshman State Sen. Joseph Coniglio. Robert Gordon and Voss were the Assembly candidates against two Republicans, former Fair Lawn Mayor Edward Trawinski and Bergen County Freeholder Louis Tedesco, and an incumbent, Matthew Ahearn, who was elected as a Democrat in 2001 and switched to the Green Party after a falling out with Ferriero.
Gordon went to the Senate in 2007 after Democrats pulled Coniglio after published reports that he was the target of a federal corruption probe. Ferriero’s first choice was a politically ally, Paramus Mayor James Tedesco. Democrats became nervous that putting a Ferriero protégé on the ticket could put the seat in play – their own internal polls showed Republican Robert Colletti leading Coniglio – so they a little reluctantly went with Gordon, who had a reputation for integrity, independence and intelligence.