All three seats in the 13th legislative district appear to be up for grabs next year.
If published reports are to believed, Assembly Members Amy Handlin and Declan O’Scanlon are heading for a primary in June for the GOP nomination to succeed Senator Joe Kyrillos in the New Jersey Senate.
If both Handlin and O’Scanlon compete on the June ballot, rather than letting the County Committee members choose a nominee at a convention, both Assembly seats will be vacant.
Since Kyrillos announced in October that he will retire from the legislature after thirty years, Handlin and O’Scanlon have been working behind to scenes to garner support for the nomination with the Republican County Committee members of the district. Handlin announced her intention to run for the seat to the Asbury Park Press and Politico yesterday. O’Scanlon announced at a fundraiser in Holmdel last night and followed with a press release this morning.
Handlin told the Asbury Park Press she switched her fundraising account from a Assembly account to a Senate account last month and that it would be “not appropriate” for her to campaign for Senate with an Assembly account. Handlin did not call us back for this article.
In her letter to County Committee members, Handlin took veiled shots at O’Scanlon over his vote in favor of the gas tax increase to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund and that fact that she has received more votes that her running mate in the elections since O’Scanlon was transferred from the 12th legislative district in 2011 after reapportionment. Handlin also claimed that she is more popular than O’Scanlon in Marlboro which she said would be an advantage should the Democrats nominate Mayor Jon Hornik for the seat.
O’Scanlon has been promoting his record of producing results for taxpayers despite the fact that he is a leader of the minority party in Trenton.
“I have never let my status as a minority member of the legislature impair me from fighting for and winning fiscal reforms for the hardworking taxpayers of Monmouth County and all of New Jersey,” O’Scanlon said. “There is no member of the Legislature who has proposed more cost-saving reforms in the Legislature than myself to address New Jersey’s property tax crisis. Monmouth County residents are paying too much and receiving too little in return.”
O’Scanlon touts the 2011 Penision and Benefits reforms, the 2% property tax cap and the tax cuts for seniors, veterans and estates included in the Transportation Trust Fund legislation and major accomplishments with his finger prints on them. He recently has championed reforms to the purchasing of prescription drugs for State employees and retirees–a $250 million savings–and has gained statewide recognition for leading the fight to end the use of red light cameras in New Jersey. In his letter to County Committee members, O’Scanlon also touted his efforts to combat addiction, the to increase the rate of organ donations in New Jersey.
In an interview with Observer-PolitickerNJ, O’Scanlon, the Assembly Republican Budget Officer, said that solving New Jersey’s fiscal mess would remain his top priority should he move the the upper house.
“We will be facing a budget crisis like we have never seen before. Thank goodness we already enacted a round of reforms—pension, health benefits and others—that are saving us substantial money right now,” O’Scanlon said. “Over the next five years we face a $4 to $7 billion budget deficit—that’s billion with a “B”—and it’s not going away with the waving of a magic wand or creative accounting.”
O’Scanlon said that the budget will be his focus if elected and that he will be a “champion” of reforms including more cuts and cost saving measures. O’Scanlon has already submitted a health benefits reform plan.
“Virtually everything else that everyone wants to do is dependent upon us resolving this looming budget crisis,” O’Scanlon said. Even so, the assemblyman said he will not be singularly focused on budget if elected as state senator. He said that he will also continue his work on addiction policy and continue work on recovery from Superstorm Sandy. He said that he also hopes continue pushing for shared services to save taxpayer money as the district’s new senator.
Also in the mix is Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger. Scharfenbeger was expected to announce his candidacy last week, but pulled back after questions were raised over potential conflicts with his job as the Director of the New Jersey Business Action Center- Office of Planning Advocacy.
Scharfenberger touts his popularity in Middletown, the largest town in the district by far, as the rationale for his possible candidacy. He told MMM that he will only be a candidate, should he run, if he is nominated at a GOP convention.
Who runs for Assembly?
If both LD 13 Assembly seats are vacant due to O’Scanlon and Handlin running in the primary for Senate, there is a wealth of Republican talent in the district looking to step up. The likelihood of a willing “placeholder” candidate to keep the general election ballot position warm for the loser of a Senate primary is remote. Even if there is no primary, if either Handlin or O’Scanlon wins the Senate nomination and the loser runs for reelection to the Assembly, there will be one Assembly vacancy.
The likely candidates for the Assembly seats are:
Scharfenberger if he doesn’t run for Senate. After being elected to the Middletown Township Committee five times, most recently with the highest vote total in Middletown history, Scharfenberger is ready to move up. As a side benefit, his leaving the Township Committee would create an opening for his son-in-law, Tony Perry. Perry is Kyrillos’ Chief of Staff and is looking for his own next step now that the Senator is retiring.
Freeholder Deputy Director Serena DiMaso of Holmdel, beat back millions of dollars in special interest money in defeating Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty in her reelection bid last month. DiMaso served on the Holmdel Township Committee for 10 years before being tapped to replace Assemblyman Rob Clifton on the Freeholder Board in 2012. She has been elected Freeholder three times.
Atlantic Highlands Councilman Peter Doyle has expressed an interest in seeking higher office when the next vacancy occurs.
Union Beach Councilman Charlie Cocuzza has 11 years of service under his belt. He told MMM he would consider throwing his hat into the ring if there were vacancies.
Hazlet Deputy Mayor Sue Kiley has consistently been mentioned as a candidate for higher office since she burst onto the scene with a dominating victory in the Township in 2014.
Holmdel has perhaps the deepest bench of Republican talent in the County. Mayor Eric Hinds, Deputy Mayor Greg Buontempo and Committee Member Pat Impreveduto, a former mayor all have the smarts, records and popularity to move up.
Brent Sonnek-Schmeltz, the Atlantic Highlands Board of Education member who took one for the team against Congressman Frank Pallone last month still has his sights on Washington. A stint or two in Trenton could make him a more competitive congressional candidate.
Complicating the process of selecting candidates for the legislature in LD 13 is the gubernatorial race. There will be a primary for the GOP nomination for Governor and each candidate –there could be four or five– has an incentive to fill their ballot positions with candidates for Senate, Assembly and Freeholder.