Inverso considering comeback in 14th

Former Republican State Sen. Peter Inverso, who held the Senate seat in the 14th District for 16 years, is considering a comeback.

In an interview Thursday, Inverso said he has been approached by Senate leadership about a potential challenge to Democratic state Sen. Linda Greenstein.

“There are a number of factors to think about,” Inverso said.  “But I’m definitely considering it.”

Inverso, who recently announced his retirement as president of Roma Bank, was a popular senator up until his retirement in 2008 and was part of the vaunted old guard of Hamilton Republicans who served in the state Legislature that included former Assemblymen Jack Rafferty and Paul Kramer.

During his tenure he was the prime sponsor of Megan’s Law, the sex offender registry law named after Megan Kanka, a little Hamilton girl who was murdered by a twice-convicted sex offender who lived across the street.

Upon Inverso’s retirement, former Assemblyman Bill Baroni ran for the seat and won, serving just over two years of the term before being tapped by Gov. Chris Christie to take over as deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Hamilton resident Tom Goodwin took over the seat from Baroni, but was defeated by Greenstein in his bid for a full term.

The district has changed since Inverso’s exit with not only a new configuration but a largely different dynamic owing to the troubled relationship between the governor and the state employees who call Hamilton home.

An overhaul of the state pension and benefits program spearheaded by Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney was wildly unpopular with the public worker unions, who have been outspoken against Republicans, in particular the governor, as well as any Democrat who voted in favor of the measures.

Hamilton Township also has been rife with turmoil owing to the arrest and subsequent conviction of former Mayor John Bencivengo on corruption charges stemming from bribes he took in exchange for helping an insurance broker maintain a contract with the Hamilton School Board.  Other members of Bencivengo’s administration were implicated as were members of the school board.

The district became marginally more GOP friendly during the last round of redistricting, however, the additional Republican votes were of little help to Republican Richard Kanka, who challenged Greenstein in 2011 and lost.

The addition of Inverso to the ticket would likely put the 14th at the top of the list of competitive districts in the state and make it a prime target for the state GOP.  But Greenstein is not to be taken lightly as she has knocked off a half dozen competitive candidates during her tenure first in the Assembly and then in the Senate.

Both Goodwin and Kanka were popular Hamiltonians with high name recognition and she dispatched both in the span of a year.

"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.