How Sacco got to the NJ Senate
When Nicholas Sacco decided he wanted the 32nd District Senate seat nearly 30 years ago, two years after becoming mayor of North Bergen, he simply took it.
The incumbent in 1993 was Thomas Cowan of the Operations Engineers Union, a sympathetic survivor of Hudson’s political battles who had spent six years in the Assembly and then ten in the Senate. His political career began in 1977, when a seismic realignment of Jersey City resulted in the defeat of two state senators and two members of the Assembly.
Jersey City Mayor Paul Jordan challenged Gov. Brendan Byrne in the June Democratic primary. In May, Thomas FX Smith beat Jordan’s hand-picked successor Bill Macchi by a margin of 54% to 26%. While the Hudson lemmings were currying favor with the new mayor, Jordan’s campaign fell apart and he quit.
Cowan ran for Assembly in 1977 on a ticket with future Hudson County executive Robert Janiszewski as part of an organizing line put in place by Smith before the April filing date , just in case he wins. Under the banner of “Regular Democratic Party Against Income Tax” — a not-too-subtle slap in the face of Byrne — former Assemblyman David Friedland (D-Jersey City) defeated incumbent Senator Joseph Tumulty (D- Jersey City), with Cowan and Janiszewski ousting incumbents Michael Esposito and Alina Miszkiewicz, both of Jersey City.
After Friedland’s criminal conviction, the 1981 redistricting placed Harrison in 32nd. The state senator was Frank Rodgers, the longtime (48-year-old) mayor of Harrison. Cowan went to the Senate in 1983 when Jersey City Mayor Gerry McCann wanted the Senate seat back. He made a deal for Rodgers to run for Hudson County clerk instead.
1983 was a warette year in Hudson: Cowan won the Senate seat by a margin of 58% to 42% over Jersey Councilman Anthony Cucci. (Two years later, Cucci ran for mayor and edged out McCann.) It was the year McCann dumped Janiszewski and brought in North Bergen Commissioner Anthony Vainieri — MP Valerie Huttle’s father. and Hudson freeholder Anthony Vainieri – and former Jersey City Council chairman Paul Cuprowski. . McCann was on the wrong side of the Mocco brothers of North Bergen, who supported Cucci and Janiszewski, as well as former Assemblyman Theodore DiGiammo (D-North Bergen). Janiszewski lost renomination to his Assembly seat by 3,000 votes.
Cuprowski and Vaineri were both one-term members of the Assembly. In Tom Kean’s 1985 landslide, Republicans Frank Gargiulo – now North Bergen commissioner and Sacco’s loyal lieutenant – and Charles Catrillo beat the incumbents.
Four years later came the real Hudson War – a Democratic primary for county executive between incumbent Ed Clark and challenger Janiszewski – which included full slates for the Senate, Assembly and Freeholder of the county. ‘State. Cowan backed Janiszewski and ran against Cuprowski, the pick of Hudson County Democratic Chairman Dennis Collins — and, more importantly, the Mocco brothers. Cowan won, but by only 529 votes.
Republicans believed the 1987 war and Cowan’s primary victory might leave him vulnerable to general. Cowan’s opponent was Catrillo, the freshman Republican Assemblyman, and the NJGOP allocated huge financial resources to overthrow a Hudson State Senate seat for the first time since before Frank Hague. .
In the end, it was not close. With Hudson’s loyalties realigned after Janiszewski’s win, Cowan scored a decisive 2–1 win over Catrillo. Cowan won 90% in the 1991 Democratic primary and survived a closer-than-expected 57%–39% win over Republican Guy Catrillo (Charlie’s brother) in Jim Florio’s Republican landslide.
It was Cowan’s last victory. In 1993 Sacco decided he wanted to be a senator.
Sacco’s debut in North Bergen politics came in 1985 when he was elected to the Board of Commissioners. Sacco was a 38-year-old public school principal and was taken under the wing of Mayor Leo Gattoni, Sr.
A quick history of Gattoni, who first ran for local office in North Bergen in 1949, in opposition to Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague. Five years later, while serving as Hudson County Deputy Sheriff, Gattoni served Hague with a grand jury subpoena at a Jersey City funeral home while Hague attended his funeral wake. nephew.
Gattoni convinced the Mocco brothers to put Sacco on the ticket, even though they didn’t really want to. When a scandal finally brought down the Mocco brothers, Gattoni was convinced to step down in 1991 and let Sacco be mayor.
Using the influence of North Bergen City Hall, Sacco forged an alliance with Union City – then Representative. B Menendez and Mayor Bruce Walter, the Democratic chairman of Hudson County – and challenged Cowan for the Senate. Cowan refused to retire, and Sacco beat him in the Democratic primary by 7,046 votes – 67%-33%.
Last thing: the 32nd arrondissement was a little evil.
Since its inception in 1973, every senator has ended up leaving and not exactly on their own terms. The first senator, Tumulty (scion of a famous Jersey City political family – his brother was a congressman and his uncle was Woodrow Wilson’s chief of staff), got just 23% of the vote in the Democratic primary when he ran for re-election. Friedland, his successor, was removed from office by a federal judge before faking his death in a scuba diving accident in Bimini. James Galdieri, the winner of a special election to replace Friedland, lost his seat a few months later when the redistricting put another Democratic senator, Rodgers, in his seat. (Galdieri was the father of Michael Galdieri, the victim of Sean Caddle’s murder-for-hire scheme.)
Rodgers was kicked out of the Senate two years later to make way for Cowan.