Faced with the possibility of a fiery primary battle at the end of this year, Republican Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-40) remains confident that he and his district running mate have the support needed to stave off any challenges to his home turf.
“Our endorsement list I think speaks for itself,” Rumana told PolitickerNJ today, adding that he and Assemblyman David Russo (R-40) plan to release a list of local mayoral and county support towards the end of the week. “We are very much united and excited.”
Rumana, who is up for a fourth-term re-election this year in North Jersey’s fortieth legislative district, is said to be targeted for a primary challenge by Republican power broker Peter Murphy, former chairman of the Passaic County Republican Party and arch-nemesis to Rumana. Late last year, sources PolitickerNJ that Murphy was making moves toward positioning a candidate for a GOP Primary against Rumana, having helped re-elect Kristin Corrado the clerk of Passaic County in a November general.
Rumana and Murphy have a long history of feuding, making a politically fractured LD40 — which encompasses parts of Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Morris counties — ripe for a primary battle. The two first clashed back in 2009, when Murphy organized a slate of candidates under the slogan “GOP Strong” to run in the primary against the regular Republican candidates for clerk and freeholder. Later, Rumana fended off Murphy in 2012 when he positioned his county chairman’s candidate, John Traier, for victory over the Murphy-backed Scott Heck.
But sources say there is also tension between other parties in the district, including at the county and mayoral level. Rumana has sparred lately with Mayor Chris Vergano of Wayne, one of the biggest towns in the district, in a rivalry made public in 2013 when a city councilman and close aide to Rumana defied Vergano during a re-election campaign. The struggle was though by many to be one initiated between Vergano and Rumana, who Vergano succeeded in city hall and who is a former county Republican chairman.
One Republican party source in the district said Murphy might want to capitalize on those tensions, consolidating opposition in Wayne and other areas outside Rumana’s control.
Still, it’s unclear how close the two factions actually are to a primary. Sources say the party has since unified some in recent years, helped along by the re-election of Corrado last year, which brought together both sides against a Democratic challenge and which saw a patriotic Traier invoking Abraham Lincoln and pleaing for GOP unity in the lead up to the incumbent clerk’s campaign launch. Corrado, in one of the quietest surprises of the 2014 elections, squeaked out a 51-49% victory over Democratic challenger Jeff Gardner of Hawthorne in that election.
Contacted by phone, Traier said he thinks things will work themselves out between the various parties before November.
“That’s my general prediction now. But that could change,” Traier said, adding that he doesn’t see Corrado, likely Murphy’s top pick for a primary challenge, interested in taking on a race right now.