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Former investment banker Frank Pallotta.

Pallotta ahead in NJ-5

Former investment banker leads McCann by about 4,500 votes with partial tallies in some portions of the district

By Nikita Biryukov, July 08 2020 12:57 am

Former Investment Banker Frank Pallotta leads former Cresskill Councilman John McCann by about 4,500 votes, though tallies in parts of the fifth district were not completed Tuesday night.

In Sussex County, Pallotta leads McCann by about 4,300 votes. McCann came in third there, placing behind Pallotta and teacher James “Big Jim” Baldini.

The former investment banker has a roughly 1,200-vote edge over McCann in Warren County, though the former councilman has won about 1,000 more votes than his chief opponent in Bergen County, where about 45% of the ballots cast won’t be counted until tomorrow.

At this point, McCann’s path to victory is exceedingly narrow, though the New Jersey Globe is withholding a call because of the number of uncounted votes in Bergen and the lack of tallies from the Passaic County portion of the district, where Pallotta has the line.

The race between McCann and Pallotta was marked mainly by the candidates’ willingness to savage one another with little regard for how an embittering fight for the nomination might affect Republicans chances at ousting Gottheimer.

Early on, Pallotta tested attacks perennial candidate Steve Lonegan launched at McCann when he ran for the seat in 2018. In the last week of the race, the former investment banker launched an ad likening McCann to a “swamp creature” and mauling him over the repeat candidate’s allegedly failing to pay $130,000 in taxes.

That attack prompted threat of a libel suit from McCann — he made no such threat when he faced Lonegan two years ago — and the candidate’s campaign has sent numerous emails charging Pallotta was a fake Republican who did not support President Donald Trump, among other things.

Both Republicans finished the primary with little in their campaign accounts. McCann, the less proficient fundraiser, had just over $12,000 in his war chest when election day was about three weeks away.

Pallotta, despite outraising McCann’s $173,678.37 by more than three-to-one, had a little more than $40,000 banked on June 17.

Meanwhile, Gottheimer, a prolific fundraiser, had almost $8.5 million.

The fundraising gap between the two Republicans and the Democratic incumbent might have been less important were the country not locked in a pandemic that has all but shuttered in-person campaign activities for months.

Neither of the Republican campaigns were knocking on doors days out from the election, and both have largely eschewed in-person events.

The pandemic also may have been responsible for awarding McCann the line in the district’s most populous county.

Faced with a statewide lockdown that included strict limits on gatherings, Bergen County Republican Chairman Jack Zisa cancelled the GOP organization’s convention and awarded the party line to McCann, who had the backing of the Bergen County Republican policy committee.

But McCann’s support among the county’s Republicans is far from firm. Prominent Republican lawmakers like State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest), State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-River Vale), among others, have split with the party to endorse Pallotta.

Perennial candidate Hector Castillo also sought the Republican nod.

Vote tallies do not include uncounted mail-in ballots received by Tuesday, late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday, provisional ballots that won’t be counted for at least a week and mail-in ballots that were disqualified but may be cured at a later date.

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