It looks like Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) has a preference in the Republican primary to pick his general election opponent.
It’s a rematch with Frank Pallotta, the former investment banker from Mahwah.
Gottheimer is unopposed in the Democratic primary, but that didn’t stop him from mailing Republican households in a bid to tie Pallotta to Donald Trump.
“Frank Pallotta is too much like Trump,” the Gottheimer mailer said in what looks like a passive aggressive attack on Pallotta aimed at pushing Republican voters toward Pallotta by painting him as an ally of a former President who remains popular among GOP primary voters.
The mailer uses Trump’s endorsement of Pallotta in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Gottheimer in 2020. Trump has not taken sides in the 2020 primary between Pallotta and Nick De Gregorio, a U.S. Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
One of the Republicans who received the Gottheimer mailer was De Gregorio.
“It is clear who Josh Gottheimer wants to win this Republican primary – and it’s not the guy who served his country in four tours overseas and is now calling on him and others to sell off their stock portfolios to clean up Washington,” said De Gregorio.
De Gregorio accused the the three-term congressman of meddling in the GOP primary, “using liberal special interest money to wage his own Putin-style disinformation campaign to confuse Republican primary voters about who the true conservative leader in this race is.”
“It’s dead wrong — and if Josh is the statesman he claims to be, he will immediately stop any spending in the CD5 Republican primary,” De Gregorio stated. “I also call on my opponent, Frank Pallotta, to immediately disavow Gottheimer’s attempt to put his thumb on the scale in this race.”
The Gottheimer campaign declined to comment on the mailer.
Two years ago, Gottheimer defeated Pallotta by 31,842 votes, 53%-46%. Pallotta spent about $1.4 million of his own money on that race, but his fundraising numbers this cycle have been sluggish. He raised a mere $38,650 during the first quarter of 2022 and just $250,740 since entering the race in April 2021.
DeGregorio raised $309,503 during the first three months of this year, and more than $700,000 in total since becoming a candidate for Congress last November.
Gottheimer, known as the Human Fundraising Machine, has $13.1 million in his campaign warchest.
“Josh is running scared with good reason. He knows that the cost of food and gas, along with the Biden Administration’s abject failure to secure the border and support our cops is indefensible here,” De Gregorio said. “But here’s a message for you, Josh, man-to-man: I will never stop fighting for the future of this country against gutless cowards like you.”
With the Bergen County organization line, De Gregorio is the front-runner in the race to take on Gottheimer. But Pallotta has organization backing in the Passaic and Sussex portions of New Jersey’s 5th district.
This week, Pallotta sidestepped a New Jersey Globe/Save Jersey debate with De Gregorio.