The star of State Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) is ascending in the ever-changing firmament of New Jersey politics. Schepisi, 43, an attorney who lives in River Vale, is reportedly being considered by New Jersey Republicans as a future Congressional or statewide candidate, including for governor. PolitickerNJ named Schepisi as one of its two Rising Stars in its 2014 Year in Review. Schepisi recently addressed a constellation of issues with PolitickerNJ, trying to make sense out of New Jersey’s chaotic political galaxy.
PolitickerNJ: Now that there is a new Democratic Bergen County Executive [Jim Tedesco] in office, what should the Bergen Republicans’ political stance be going forward?
Holly Schepisi: There are fundamental ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats, and we have to ensure that we differentiate ourselves. But we don’t have to be contentious or cantankerous just for the sake of being so. What we need to is to focus on party building, what our messaging is, and what we’re looking to do long-term. We have to be able to get Bergen County its fair share, and to focus on why Bergen County, disproportionately from the rest of the state, receives the least amount back from the tax dollars we send down to Trenton.
PNJ: The footage of Gov. Chris Christie cheering on the Dallas Cowboys with team owner Jerry Jones at a recent playoff game has received a lot of attention. Do you think the governor’s exuberant behavior in the Cowboys owner’s box was presidential?
HS: With respect to the football game itself, I think the entire thing is silly. Here is somebody who has always been an avowed Cowboys fan. Was the photo of him being excited a little bit goofy? Yeah. But taking him apart because he’s a Cowboys fan is silly. It’s almost akin to coming after me because I like Bono better than Bon Jovi.
PNJ: Reports that Christie accepted plane and game tickets from Jones after information emerged suggesting that Christie impelled the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to sign off on a contract for a company that was partially owned by Jones came out after the game. Do you think there is anything to this story?
HS: I don’t have enough information about that component to make any sort of judgment. In the past 24 hours, I’ve been more focused about [Mercedes-Benz USA leaving New Jersey], so I haven’t really followed that.
PNJ: In terms of other figures involved in presidential politics, do you think [Democrat] Hillary Clinton is a particular threat to get independent female votes in 2016? Would the GOP prefer to have another opponent, or do Republicans think Hillary is a perfect candidate to tee off on?
HS: I think that Hillary is more of a threat than, let’s say, [U.S. Sen.] Elizabeth Warren (D – Mass.) for example, because Hillary has potentially more appeal to independent voters than Warren, who is viewed to be much further to the left. Whoever the ticket is on the Republican side doesn’t want to be perceived as just the older-rich-white-men-running ticket. Our party has become more cognizant of trying to reach out [demographically], and I think that was seen in the last election with the Republican candidates that were elected into Congress.
PNJ: Later this month, you will be joining state Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) as part of the 2015 Republican Assembly campaign kickoff, focusing first on Bergen and Hudson counties. Do you plan on increasing your statewide appearances to support the 2015 GOP Assembly candidates?
HS: I will do everything I can to be supportive of our party. And if that includes a desire for me to attend events in other districts, I absolutely will show my support.
PNJ: Would that include supporting state Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2), who is categorically opposed to any proposed casino being built in North Jersey, including a casino potentially being built in your home county of Bergen?
HS: I am a firm believer that you can still actively support somebody and disagree on certain issues. I don’t think that there is any candidate, or any person, that I agree with 100 percent. Chris and I have respectfully disagreed on some of these issues, but it doesn’t change my support in any fashion for him, or for what he’s attempting to do on behalf of the area that he represents.
PNJ: As a member of the state Legislative Special Committee on Investigation, what is your take on the progress of the committee’s Bridgegate investigation, following the recent release of the committee’s interim report?
HS: From a practical perspective, let’s assume that some sort of an indictment comes down stemming from the Bridgegate affair. There is no U.S. Attorney in the country that I am aware of that would permit a political legislative body, while there is an active criminal case pending, call before it witnesses with any sort of material knowledge of what occurred. If indictments do come down, there is no chance that we are at any time in the foreseeable future going to be able to call up before our committee anybody with relevant or pertinent knowledge.
There is also no criminal case that I’m aware of in New Jersey that from start to finish takes under a year, unless a plea deal is entered into. In general, you’re talking at least a year, which brings us into an entirely new legislative session. If we’re keeping this committee open with the hope that we’re going to be calling in David Wildstein or Bridget Kelly or anybody else to provide public testimony, the odds of that occurring are pretty small to non-existent. Plus, eight out of the twelve members of the committee are up for reelection this year. You could have a situation by the time we would be able to call anybody before us that you could possibly have a certain portion of the committee no longer being in office.