Comebacks, and Joe Bubba

The Essex County District 5 Freeholder seat is the place to make a political comeback. Ralph Caputo, elected to the State Assembly as a Republican in 1967 (and out of office since 1971), and ran for Freeholder as a Democrat in 2002 on County Executive candidate Joseph DiVincenzo’s ticket. He won a contested primary, and ousted incumbent Joseph Scarpelli (who mounted his own comeback this month when he won a Nutley Commissioner race) in the general election. Caputo returned to the State Assembly in 2007 – forty years after his first election.

Now Caputo faces a primary challenge from former Montclair Mayor Robert Russo, who came within 36 votes of winning the District 5 Freeholder seat thirty years ago. Running on a ticket with County Executive candidate Peter Shapiro, Russo defeated Belleville Mayor Michael Marotti in the Democratic primary. He lost the general to Republican James Piro.

Voters in Pompano Beach, Florida will go to the polls on August 26 for a special election to replace City Commissioner Pat Larkins, who resigned this month for health reasons. Joseph Bubba, who served in the New Jersey State Senate for sixteen years, says he will not be a candidate for the seat. Bubba retired to Florida in 2000, and attempted political comeback in 2004 as a candidate for City Commissioner. He received 235 votes — just 8% — in his fourth place finish. (The candidate who finished third lost by 27 percentage points and Bubba got less than half the number of votes she did.)

“There’s only one reason I ran: Pompano was a pig pen,” Bubba told PolitickerNJ.com. “There was no development – it looked like a throwback to the 1950’s. So my job was to break the chops of the elected official, because I don’t know anybody down here. I did and things changed. And that’s the end of that. The worst thing that could have happened was me being elected, because I didn’t want to be elected.”

Bubba, who turns 70 this year, served as a Passaic County Freeholder and Republican County Chairman before winning a seat in the New Jersey State Senate in 1981. He beat four-term Assemblyman (and former Senator) William Bate– now the Passaic County Surrogate — by a 53%-47% margin. Bubba only narrowly held the seat two years later, first in a bitter primary battle with Assemblyman Terry LaCorte, and then in a general election against Passaic County Freeholder James Roe, the brother of popular Congressman Robert Roe; Bubba won by only 974 votes. He beat Clifton attorney Donald Hetchka in 1987, Assemblyman Joseph Mecca in 1991, and former state Consumer Affairs Director Patricia Royer in 1993. He ran for Congress in 1992, when Roe retired, and lost to former Assemblyman Herbert Klein by a wide margin.

"I don't think what he's doing tonight, the method by which he's doing it helps to build a trustful relationship."
—Gov. Chris Christie reacting to President Barack Obama's speech on immigration reform.