Nick DeGregorio, a Republican who deployed four times with the U.S. Marines, kicked off his bid for Congress today against Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), becoming the third notable Republican to announce a run in the potentially competitive district.
“Cleaning up Washington will be a monumental undertaking – but we can do it,” DeGregorio said from a podium in Glen Rock. “And I hope you’ll join me.”
Bergen County Republican Chairman Jack Zisa, Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-Old Tappan), and Assemblywoman DeAnne DeFuccio (R-Upper Saddle River) attended DeGregorio’ s announcement.
DeGregorio service in the Marines was front-and-center from the outset; he was joined by Barbara Kim-Hagemann, a former commander of the state Veterans of Foreign Wars, and said that the American withdrawal from Afghanistan was what ultimately convinced him to run.
“We started our exploratory committee in June,” he said. “Then in August, when we saw what was happening in Afghanistan, we said, we can’t allow this to happen… It was an egregious abdication of duty by the President of the United States, and Congress basically stayed silent.”
DeGregorio faces a hard path to Congress. Gottheimer has become an electoral force in the district and has amassed a huge $11 million warchest – while DeGregorio will have to get past a potentially competitive Republican primary to face Gottheimer at all.
“If Nick emerges as the candidate, I am glad to see that he agrees with me on issues like opposing socialism,” Gottheimer said. “Everyone knows how much I believe in bipartisan governing.”
Congressional redistricting might place yet another hurdle in DeGregorio’ s way. The current iteration of the 5th district voted for Joe Biden by around five points and almost certainly gave Jack Ciattarelli a majority last week, but a new map may make the district bluer by giving it more of Bergen County. DeGregorio insisted, however, that he’d keep running no matter what the district looks like come 2022.
“There’s no question in my mind I’ll [continue to run],” he said. “I’m not running for Congress in order to run for Congress. I’m running for Congress because I grew up here… This is my home. If I wanted to run for Congress in order to run for Congress, I’d go to Wyoming.”
If he does win, DeGregorio will be many things: the first Republican elected to federal office in Bergen County since 2014, one of around 90 veterans in Congress – the lowest number since World War II – and, at 36, one of Congress’s relatively few millennials. But the thing he’ll be most of all, he said, is an independent voice.
“I’m a Nick DeGregorio Republican,” he said. “This is an opportunity for me to be a young person in the Republican Party and see it shaped in the future in a way that is ideal. I look forward to the opportunity to be my own man.”
DeGregorio faces competition for the GOP nomination.
Frank Pallotta, an investment banker, spent $1.435 million of his own money in an unsuccessful bid to take out Gottheimer in 2020, is running again. He lost by 31,842 votes, 53%-46%.
Nicholas D’Agostino, the 32-year-old president of the Sussex-Wantage Regional Board of Education, entered the race in February.
The 5th district congressional seat had been held by Republicans for 36 years until Gottheimer, a former speechwriter in the Clinton White House, unseated seven-term Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage) by 14,897 votes, 51%-47%, in 2016. Donald Trump carried the 5th district by a 48%-47% margin against Hillary Clinton that year.
Gottheimer was re-elected in 2018 by 41,291 votes, 56%-42%, against Republican John McCann, a former Cresskill councilman.
This story was updated at 10:11 PM with comment from Gottheimer.