Union, Hudson (Almost), Bergen? Dug-in Stellato Says No Way as Lagana’s Name Floats

State Senator Joe Lagana raised $100,000 at his fundraiser Wednesday night at the Grand Havana Lounge in New York City.

The name of state Senator Joe Lagana (D-38) surfaced in the aftermath of Bergen County Democratic Committee Chairman Lou Stellato’s nomination to the Sports and Exposition Authority.

What’s there not to like, one source buzzed.

Young. Vibrant, Politically savvy. Paramus-based.

And in the trending column of fellow Democratic senators this year who took a crack at the chairmanship of their respective counties and won (Senator Nick Scutari in Union) or lost (Senator Brian P. Stack in Hudson).


Depends on who you talk to, as Stellato and his allies insist his nomination means nothing more than his willingness to shoulder two jobs.

After another season of intrigue earlier this year, he was just reelected chair of the party in June and sees no reason to discontinue serving.

“He’s the Tony Bennett of Bergen,” one source told InsiderNJ. “As long as there’s a stage and microphone, Lou’s going to be there.”

Of course, there’s speculation that South Jersey and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) – intent on slabs of overlay power up north in case of another statewide run – won’t want him (or a surrogate or ally, or anyone else who might readily favor Phil Murphy) there and will try to use the moment to leverage their own influence on Stellato’s successor. “Lou don’t get sports and expo without giving up the seat,” one source said, and was shouted down by other sources who said that’s nonsense.

Best bet?

Stellato won’t be able to leave, sees no reason to leave, and fills the two years he has on the clock before handing off to either Paul Juliano, who’s the Fairview public works director; or Todd Sherer, who’s the Mahwah municipal party chair, both county committee brand names with real world bases. If that happens, and Juliano edges Sherer, then Sherer will be Juliano’s consigliere, and vice versa if Sherer wins, sources argue.

Nothing to see here.

But one other scenario, especially given this year’s political history and the flexing of what Nick Accocella calls the imperial senate presidency within the caucus and that influence on county party committees and the loss of Stack coupled with the enticement of what Scutari’s win could mean, summons – even if just in parlor room capacity – the Lagana option.

He’s a natural fit for the job if there’s an opening and Juliano and Sherer can’t get out of each other’s way.

“Joe has nothing to do with Sweeney here; this possibility has nothing to do with Sweeney,” one source objected. “This is an organic option, based on Joe’s popularity and strength with labor.”

There’s push back against it, heavy push back, with some South Jersey-will-never-get-aleg-in-the-door-here force behind it, accompanied by the argument that Bergen isn’t Hudson or Union, and won’t put a legislator in that position.

“That’s just not Bergen,” said a source, while a source close to “the legislatively-focused” Lagana said the senator completely backs Stellato.

In any event, again, the sitting chairman – like a legendary lounge singer with newly lengthened mic wire across the carpet and room to walk around countywide – insists he doesn’t plan to go anywhere.

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