By Wally Edge | February 23rd, 2006 - 4:39pm
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Paul Sarlo, a 37-year-old Democratic State Senator and the Mayor of Wood-Ridge, is viewed as a man of considerable political ambition. When it looked as though Richard Codey might be moving on to the United States Senate, Sarlo was actively seeking votes for Senate President. He is keeping an eye on the ninth disrict House seat, in case Congressman Steven Rothman decides to run for something else down the road. And Democrats know know Sarlo well say the assume he has his other eye on Drumthwacket. But first Sarlo must win re-election to the Senate in a district where the GOP says Sarlo's business and family ties could put the 36th into play. Republican insiders believe that Sarlo's day job, as a civil engineer for a construction company owned by Joseph Sanzari, is a potential liability. Sanazri, whose public contracts in New Jersey have reportedly exceeded $50 million over the last two years, has gotten some attention in recent weeks from a federal grand jury investigation of his friend, New Jersey Turnpike Authority Chairman Joseph Simunovich. Sanzari allegedly gave Simunovich free rides on his jet. Sanzari, his family and his companies have contributed over $500,000 to political campaigns and party organizations over the last four years. Sarlo also has a potential problem with his two brothers: Thomas Sarlo, is a Little Ferry Councilman, and another brother, Charles Sarlo, is the in-house counsel to a politically active architectural firm, DMR Architects of Hasbrouck Heights that has contracts with Little Ferry and Wood-Ridge to help plan local redevelopment contracts. According to the Star-Ledger, DMR has donated more than $60,000 to Democrats in Bergen and Hudson counties in recent years, including contributions to the Sarlo campaigns. Sarlo won his Senate seat by an impressive margin over former Assemblyman John Kelly in 2003, but Republicans would need to recruit one of three candidates to challenge Sarlo: former Assemblyman (and gubernatorial candidate) Paul DiGaetano, Bergen County Clerk (and former Assemblywoman) Kathleen Donovan or Nutley Mayor Joanne Cocchiola. One Democratic leader wondered why Sarlo doesn't just obviate any appearance of a conflict and find an engineering job with a firm that doesn't do business with the state.

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