On Tuesday, Nov. 2, voters across New Jersey will head to the polls to cast ballots for their ballots to fill all 80 seats in the state Assembly and 40 seats in the state Senate.
The 39th Legislative District encompasses 23 municipalities in Bergen and Passaic counties: Bloomingdale, Closter, Demarest, Dumont, Emerson, Harrington Park, Haworth, Hillsdale, Mahwah, Montvale, Norwood, Oakland, Old Tappan, Park Ridge, Ramsey, Ringwood, River Vale, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Wanaque, Washington, Westwood and Woodcliff Lake.
Of the district’s 178,861 voters, 30% are registered Democrats and 29% are registered Republicans. Voters in the 39th have not elected a Democrat to state Legislature since 1977.
This year, three candidates are vying for the district’s state Senate seat: Republican incumbent Holly Schepisi, who was selected to serve until the November election following the February death of longtime Senator Gerald Cardinale, Democrat Ruth Dugan and Independent James Tosone.
The district’s incumbent Assembly members, Republicans Robert Auth and DeAnne DeFuccio, are seeking re-election and being challenged by Democrats Melinda Iannuzzi and Karlito Almeda.
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Here is a rundown of who is running for a seat in the State Legislature in the 39th Legislative District.
Republican: Holly Schepisi (Incumbent)
Bio: Prior to being sworn into her Senate seat in March, the River Vale had served in the state Assembly since 2012. As an assemblywoman, Schepisi held positions including deputy Republican leader and assistant Republican leader. Now as a state Senator, she serves on committees for health, human services, labor and senior citizens. Prior to founding her law firm, Schepisi’s professional background includes serving as vice president of Holy Name Medical Center and president of its Foundation and working as Oakland’s public defender, River Vale’s township attorney, Old Tappan’s alternate prosecutor and Westwood’s alternate prosecutor.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Schepisi defeated Auth in a special party election to serve out the rest of the term of Cardinale after his death.
Democrat: Ruth Dugan
Bio: Dugan is a former Saddle River school board president and former president of Gilda’s Club of Northern New Jersey. She also served as chair of the Bayonne Medical Center back in 2006, when the facility was on the brink of bankruptcy and helped save the hospital. Dugan has received numerous accolades for her public service work over the years.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Dugan is married to James P. Dugan, a 1970s Bayonne politician who spent six years in the state Senate and chaired the New Jersey State Democratic Committee.
Libertarian: James Tosone
Bio: A resident of the Township of Washington for three decades, Tosone has sought office before. He ran for state Senate in 2017 and Congress in 2018. A former vice chair of the New Jersey Libertarian Party, Tosone worked for 30 years at Pfizer, retiring as director of business technology. He now has his own consulting business.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Tosone is a publisher author, public speaker and classical guitarist.
Republican: Robert Auth (Incumbent)
Bio: After assuming office in 2013, Auth has served on committees for commerce and economic development, financial institutions and insurance, judiciary and labor. The Old Tappan resident is also a small business owner, founding an insurance services company in 1985. Auth’s background includes working as an agency manager at the North Bergen Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) office, teaching in the North Bergen School District and serving as an aide to Cardinale.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: In 2016, Auth was the first legislator from New Jersey to endorse Donald Trump for President.
Republican: DeAnne DeFuccio (Incumbent)
Bio: DeFuccio was sworn into her Assembly seat in April 2021, filling a vacancy left when Schepisi moved to the state Senate, and holds positions on committees for health and women & children. Previously, she served as an Upper Saddle River councilwoman and on the township’s planning board. She is also an attorney, specializing in family law.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: She is the granddaughter of William F. Kelly, a Jersey City Democrat who served in the state Senate for 16 years.
Democrat: Melinda Iannuzzi
Bio: A South Carolina native, Iannuzzi moved to Demarest three decades ago and has served as the borough’s mayor since January 2019. Her background also includes 12 years on the Demarest school board and three terms on the Demarest borough council.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Iannuzzi became the first female mayor of Demarest when she defeated GOP incumbent Ray Cywinski in 2018
Democrat: Karlito Almeda
Bio: A Mahwah native, Almeda’s background includes serving as Deputy Legislative Director of Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. The 26-year-old has also worked for U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell and remains involved with environmental activism through his roles at the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization and Environment New Jersey.
North-JerseyNews.com Fact: Almeda sought a seat on the Mahwah township council five years ago, while he was still a student at Ramapo College.