Montvale mayor Mike Ghassali has stopped campaigning for the GOP congressional nomination in the 5th district but says he’s still in the race.
“If you’re the mayor, all eyes are on you,” Ghassali told the New Jersey Globe. “We’ve had eight positives already. It’s a full-time job for me right now.”
Ghassali has suspended his campaign ads and shut down his campaign headquarters, he told the Globe.
About two weeks ago, Ghassali also parted ways with his campaign manager, Rich Castaldo.
“I had a vision on how things should go. I’m a pedal to the metal kind of guy,” Castaldo said. “There’s no point in expending resources and run a full-fledged operation when we can’t. There’s no point in burning through funds.”
Castaldo said he still considers Ghassali a friend, but says he’s gone for good.
“I won’t be involved going forward,” he said.
Ghassali had reported raising $861,900 in 2019 with $728,88 cash-on-hand. Of that, $600,000 came in the form of a personal loan Ghassali made to his campaign.
There is speculation that Ghassali has spent what he has raised from donors and wants to avoid using his own money to win the Republican primary.
The race took an unexpected turn this month when Bergen County Republicans were forced to cancel their party convention in response to the coronavirus. GOP county chairman Jack Zisa has still not decided if the organization line will go to the winner of the policy committee vote, former Cresskill councilman, John McCann, or go the open primary route,
Either way, there is no clear path for Ghassali to win the Bergen organization line.
Ghassali doesn’t want to spend his own money to lose a primary – or even to win it and then start from scratch in a general election race against Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), the human fundraising machine.
The other major candidate in the race, investment banker Frank Pallotta, has the organization line in Passaic County and the endorsements of all five Sussex County freeholders.
Warren county, where GOP state chairman Doug Steinhardt is county chairman, has been in a self-imposed holding pattern until he sees where Bergen winds up.
“My immediate concern right now is to focus on my community and to help to get us through these crisis,” Ghassali said.