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Former investment banker Frank Pallotta.

Pallotta announces exploratory committee for Gottheimer challenge

Investment banker mulls congressional bid in 5th district

By David Wildstein, March 20 2019 12:00 am

Frank Pallotta, a former investment banker with the ability to self-fund, has taken the first step toward exploring a challenge to Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) by announcing the formation of an exploratory committee.

The New Jersey Globe first reported Pallotta’s interest in running for Congress.

“I have decided to seriously consider the possibility of seeking the Republican party’s nomination to run in 2020 against former Clinton speechwriter, Josh Gottheimer,” said Pallotta, who began his career with Goldman Sachs and then moved to Morgan Stanley.  “In the coming months, I plan to travel the district to meet with residents, town officials and party leaders to discuss the current challenges facing our district, state and country.”

New Milford councilwoman Kelly Langschultz will serve on the exploratory committee, along with business leaders John Grifonetti and Teddy Vagias.

Pallotta helped build Morgan Stanley’s global mortgage franchise to over 2,000 employees before he retired in 2008.  He later co-founded a New Jersey-based startup to help homeowners affected by the mortgage crisis that helped him win a Time Magazine award for one of the 50 best inventions of 2010.

The Mahwah businessman is the first Republican to publicly explore a run against Gottheimer.

Former Cresskill councilman John McCann, who won 42% against the the 5th district congressman in 2018, is considering a rematch.  Some Republican leaders have also mentioned Tim Luing, an owner of the for-profit Berkeley College, as a possible candidate.

“The window of opportunity to help lift our district and state from the burden of high taxes and out of control spending, is fast closing. The mass exodus of jobs, businesses and once-loyal residents from our state and district must end,” Pallotta said.  “We need to begin to recognize that the far reaching and lasting benefits of spending cuts, lower taxes and the continuation of President Trump’s economic plan, will far outweigh the specter of a party whose increasingly socialist policies threaten our livelihood and prosperity.”

Pallotta has called on private sector leaders to help him decide.  

While Langschultz, a former State Senate candidate, has campaign experience, Grifonetti and Vagias offer some connections to boost Pallotta’s fundraising against Gottheimer, the human fundraising machine.

Grifonetti began his career with Deloitte & Touche and is was CEO of Datek and was instrumental in the sale of the company to what is now TD Ameritrade.  Vagias is the CEO of Mason Harriman Group, a management consulting firm and a board member of the Leonidas Foundation.

Pallotta comes with some political lineage: his cousin is Robert Pallotta, a former Palisades Park mayor and Bergen County freeholder.

Gottheimer has $4.1 million cash-on-hand as he prepares to seek re-election in a district almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.  Donald Trump carried the 5th in the 2016 presidential election.

A former Clinton White House speechwriter and Microsoft executive, Gottheimer ousted seven-term Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage) in 2016 by a 51%-47% margin.

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