Bergen County Republicans have awarded their organization line for Congress in New Jersey’s 5th district to John McCann, a former Cresskill councilman who is making his second bid to unseat Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff).
The line for U.S. Senate will go to Rik Mehta and Billy Prempeh will have organization support to take on Rep. Bill Pascrell in the 9th district.
Jack Zisa, the county chairman, told the New Jersey Globe that the decision was made based on a vote taken by the Bergen County Republican Policy Committee on March 11, before the county GOP convention was cancelled after the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
McCann won 27 votes of party leaders who act as a screening committee, with 17 votes for investment banker Frank Pallotta and 16 for Montvale mayor Michael Ghassali.
In the race for U.S. Senate, the policy committee voted 41 to 12 to back Mehta, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official Rik Mehta over Hirsh Singh.
U.S. Air Force veteran Billy Prempeh defeated Bergen County Young Republican vice chairman Tim Walsh as the suggested candidate to take on Pascrell.
He beat Walsh by a narrow 32 to 26 votes.
Pallotta slammed Zisa for his decision.
“I am appalled that Jack Zisa would exploit a global crisis to unceremoniously award his buddy John McCann the Republican line,” Pallotta said. “Under the circumstances, there is no reason why this matter could not have been decided fairly in an open primary, allowing all Bergen Republicans to have a voice. Our campaign has the resources and the grassroots energy on its side, which is why this shady, backroom deal was done.”
Pallotta also took a shot at McCann, who lost to Gottheimer in 2018 by a wide margin.
“We will be marshaling our energy to creating our own slate because we think New Jersey’s Fifth District Republicans deserve more than just another suicide mission from a failed candidate who failed to meaningfully campaign or raise any money,” he said.
This story was updated at 4:34 PM with comment from McCann.