Legislative District 36

Marilyn Joyce Lehren | October 25, 2011
A touch of reality TV does little to lighten up what looks to be a tough race in the 36th

Hard as it may be to believe, the infamous Snooki played a bit part in the Senate race in North Jersey’s 36th. More precisely, her name was invoked when the Republican candidate accused Sen. Paul Sarlo of flip-flopping on a tax credit for the “Jersey Shore” reality TV show.

Snooki aside, the GOP faces an uphill climb against the Democratic ticket of Sarlo, Assemblyman Gary Schaer and Marlene Caride. This year’s redistricting gave the blue-leaning 36th a larger group of Democratic-dominant towns.

The incumbent senator is a powerful force in Trenton, serving both as deputy majority leader of the upper house and as chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

A vocal critic of Gov. Chris Christie, Sarlo and the governor have squared off over the budget and other issues. One of those, earlier this year, was the tax credit for TV productions filmed in New Jersey.

Some lawmakers, including Sarlo, groused this past month on learning that the state Economic Development Authority had approved a $420,000 tax credit for “Jersey Shore.”

Earlier this year, Christie vetoed a Sarlo bill that would have expanded the credit. In a statement, Sarlo said Christie’s veto of his legislation drove out “quality” shows, allowing the one starring Snooki fill the void.

“Let us just hope against hope that New Jersey taxpayers don’t end up paying for Snooki’s bail the next time she is arrested,” Sarlo said.

Christie ultimately blocked the subsidy for the MTV reality show, but not before he criticized Sarlo for sponsoring the tax credit, then complaining about the results.

“This guy probably would be great at Twister,” Christie said at a press conference when the controversy peaked in September. “That’s really contorting your body into a million different positions. Only Paul Sarlo could do that intellectually.”

That’s a YouTube moment Donald DiOrio, the Republican trying to unseat the Wood-Ridge senator, can’t resist replaying.

A former member of the school and zoning boards in Carlstadt, DiOrio nearly beat an incumbent in an earlier run for Assembly in 2007.

He said he will fight for changes in state education funding.

“The school funding formula that districts operate under now is illogical and punishes hard-working middle class taxpayers, their children, and senior citizens,” said DiOrio in a press release. “It’s long past the time when the majority in the state legislature stopped dodging the issue of school funding reform and embraced changes that treat each child fairly.”

He is running with Sara Rosengarten, who graduated in 2011 from Rutgers School of Law and magna cum laude in 2008 from Rutgers University. Although John Genovesi’s name also appears on the GOP ballot, he dropped out of the race in September and was not replaced.

At 25 years old, Rosengarten is the youngest person running for an office in Trenton this year.

“The youth vote and voice is often ignored and the time has come for that to change,” Rosengarten said is a press release. “Young people in New Jersey are hopeful that our state will make the right choices to ensure that they can actually afford to stay here, where they grew up, and start their own families. If we stay on our current path, that desire can never be a reality for so many young New Jerseyans.”

On the Democratic ticket, Schaer is the only incumbent; the new legislative map pushed Assemblyman Kevin Ryan’s hometown of Nutley into District 28. A newcomer barely three months into his term when the map was redrawn, Ryan was passed over by the party when veteran Assemblyman Ralph Caputo moved to Nutley to save his seat.
To match the greater Latino population of District 36, the Democrats have added Cuban-American lawyer Marlene Caride to the ticket. She is the municipal prosecutor in Ridgefield.

Sarlo praised the choice of Caride when it was announced, saying, “For the district, she’s a rock star.”

Schaer, a three-term incumbent who is known as an advocate for the developmentally disabled and autistic children, chairs the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.

The 36th District includes 15 municipalities: the southern blue-collar Bergen County towns of Carlstadt, Cliffside Park, East Rutherford, Little Ferry, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, North Arlington, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Rutherford, South Hackensack, Teterboro, Wallington and Wood Ridge, and the city of Passaic in Passaic County.