Just one day after launching his independent bid to unseat Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark A. Piterski has dropped out of the race to focus on his post in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration.
“For the need to set aside any possible distractions, I have decided to forgo my independent campaign for New Jersey’s 5th congressional district,” Piterski said in a statement. “I will be working everyday to make sure the homes have the staff and resources needed to keep our residents safe. That is my focus, that is my mission and all other activities take a back seat.”
Piterski told the New Jersey Globe on Tuesday that he had entered the race out of frustration with Gottheimer.
In just a day, Piterski appears to have concluded that all his energies should be directed to his current post.
” Every day I wake up knowing I have another opportunity to make the lives of more than 300,000 veterans in New Jersey better,” said Piterski. “In the position of Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs, I oversee programs from veterans services to long-term care. It is that care we have been entrusted with in our three Veterans Memorial Homes, that is my focus every waking moment during this COVID-19 crisis.”
One of the facilities Piterski runs, the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home, has faced criticism over the last week after eight coronavirus-related deaths.
The (Bergen) Record reported that the family of one 91-year-old veteran was recovering from COVID-19 when he had actually passed away hours earlier.
Gottheimer and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) have been of been critical of the Paramus home’s management.
Earlier today, Republican congressional candidate Frank Pallotta openly sought Piterski’s support.
“General Piterski and I agree: our veterans have been treated disgracefully in this pandemic. The Murphy Administration was clearly caught flat-footed in protecting our care facilities, and our nation’s bravest have paid the ultimate price as a result.” Pallotta said. “Meanwhile, Josh Gottheimer writes letters and press releases with no action.”
Pallotta cited a program he developed to help veterans maintain home ownership during a financial crisis.
Piterski began his military career in 1989 as a platoon leader of the Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry in 1989. He held a multitude of command posts and was awarded the Bronze Star before becoming Chief of Staff of the New Jersey National Guard.
He was the Acting Deputy Adjutant General for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for the first three months of Murphy’s governorship.
As deputy commissioner, Piterski runs two divisions that serve more than 300,000 veterans in the state on behalf of the Murphy administration: the Division of Veterans Healthcare Services, which operates three state-run, long-term care veterans homes; and the Division of Veterans Services, which coordinates a multitude of benefits programs for veterans living in New Jersey.