In LD36, All Eyes Turn to the Brothers Calabrese in Cliffside Park

A pair of Cliffside Park brothers suddenly found themselves propelled to the forefront of New Jersey politics this morning as Democratic Party leaders prepared to find a replacement for a departing state lawmaker in LD36.

The decision by Governor-elect Phil Murphy to go with Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-36) to head Banking and Insurance put the spotlight on Local Democratic Chairman Gerald Calabrese and his brother, Mayor Tom Calabrese.

A fractured district topped by two lawmakers long at odds put this decision on their political shoulders, a consequence of local power long consolidated and bloodlined from Tom Calabrese’s predecessor, his late father Mayor Gerald Calabrese, Sr.

The two brothers will be given broad range to find Caride’s successor, sources told InsiderNJ, as Democrats seek regional balance in the wake of Caride. State Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) chest thumps in the 36th District as the definitive South Bergen brand name, while Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) maintains representation of the City of Passaic, pop. 68,000.

Based on performance, lack of current representation and raw power, sources say Cliffside Park, a town of around 25K, appears strongly poised to get into the conversation with the successor to Caride.

Councilwoman Donna Spoto and Councilwoman Dana Martinotti are two women on the local governing body. They would have to be considered, as a consequence of Sarlo and Schaer likely requiring a woman to replace Caride. The Democratic lawmakers could potentially face the additional public demand of an Hispanic, given the political origins of Caride, a Cuban American who supplanted a white male in 2011 to fulfill the minority narrative of the late redistricting tie-breaker Alan Rosenthal.

But a source told InsiderNJ that the powerful local Cliffside Brothers will “pick whoever they want, regardless of demographics.”

Given the political acrimony between Sarlo and Schaer, the Brothers Calabrese enjoy amplified power, sources say.

Sarlo for years has remained firmly in the camp of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).

Schaer was loyal to those North Jersey chairs who bucked Sweeney for Governor in favor of Gov-elect Phil Murphy.




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