Sussex-Wantage Regional Baord of Education President Nicholas D’Agostino has dropped his bid for the Republican nomination for Conrgess in New Jersey’s 5th district and will instead run for Sussex County Commissioner.
D’Agostino says he will team up with Republican State Committeeman Bill Hayden, setting up a possible primary fight. Incumbent Anthony Fasano will seek a second term, but his running mate, Sylvia Petillo, is not seeking re-election. Fasano, 27, became director of the Board of Commissioners last Wednesday.
Sussex has no organization lines.
“Unfortunately, with the corrupt Democratic Party of New Jersey redrawing nearly every Congressional district in their favor — including mine — coupled with a lack of enough funding to compete against the 5th district’s Democratic incumbent Congressman, Josh Gottheimer… we have come to the end of our road for this campaign,” D’Agostino said. “Throughout my life, I’ve learned never to fight battles that I can’t win, and we are not positioned to win this time around. I’m only 32 years old, and we have decades to prepare for a new battle on this scale.”
D’Agostino had launched his bid to unseat Gottheimer, a three-term Democrat from Wyckoff, in February 2020. Another Gottheimer opponent, Fredon Mayor John Flora, switched to a challenge against Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes) after redistricting moved his hometown into the 7th district.
That leaves three Republicans, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Nick De Gregorio, Cresskill businessman Fre and 2020 candidate Frank Pallotta, in the 5th district race.
D’Agostino launched his congressional bid nearly one year ago with a compelling life story.
Diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy before he was two, he has been confined to a power wheelchair since age six. He’s survived numerous surgeries and a life-threatening staph infection.
“My spine is literally made of steel,” D’Agostino said in 2021.
In 2015, D’Agostino made his first bid for public office as a candidate for the school board, but he nearly won. Wayne Dunn defeated him by 7 votes, 795 to 788.
The next year, he sought a seat on the Wantage Township Committee. D’Agostino lost the Republican primary by 241 votes, 61%-39%, against incumbent Ronald Bassani.
After Dunn gave up his seat in 2018 to run for the Hight Point/Wantage Regional High School Board of Education, D’Agostino ran again and won. This time he was unopposed but was the top vote-getter of the three winning candidates.
Again the top vote-getter, he was re-elected to a second term in 2020, running 890 votes ahead of the second-place finisher for three seats and 1,107 ahead of the candidate who came in fourth.
D’Agostino had struggled to raise money, but won the endorsement of Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida).