Home>Campaigns>Rizzo explains the plot against him, and why he didn’t pay a $1,500 invoice

Phil Rizzo testifies at a small claims court trial on February 6, 2023. (Photo: New Jersey Globe).

Rizzo explains the plot against him, and why he didn’t pay a $1,500 invoice

Ex-congressional candidate alleges that the results of the Morris GOP convention didn’t match his own data, and was flawed

By David Wildstein, February 06 2023 6:48 pm

The small claims court trial of Phil Rizzo, the grifter ex-congressional candidate accused of stiffing the Morris County Republican Committee out of $1,500, completed a second day of testimony today,  with the candidate testifying that he felt the Republican establishment was out to get him.

The Morris GOP filed a lawsuit last year after Rizzo allegedly agreed to pay for a table at their 2022 GOP convention and never paid the bill as a candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th district.

Rizzo claims he felt there was a bias against him in 2021 when he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor and attended the Morris GOP convention to compete for the organization line.

“At the convention, there was a little snafu in the process.  There was only two candidates that had showed up to Morris County Convention for the gubernatorial position; that was myself and Jack Ciattarelli,” Rizzo explained.  “Prior to the convention, there was a drawing to see who would present first to present their campaign first.  Jack had drawn the first position.  I drew second, so Jack was to present before me.  I was going to present second.”

Rizzo testified that each candidate was to get “something like four minutes or seven minutes” to address the delegates.

“ At the convention, all the other campaigns had gone and when we got to the gubernatorial part of the ticket, I was called up first and I was a little taken aback that I was called up first and most public speaking engagements.  You want to go last.  That is that is like baseball. You want last licks, you want to go second or whatever, whatever the last position is,” Rizzo said.  “And I was called up first.  In the moment. I didn’t think anything too large of it.  I thought it was unfortunate that they weren’t going to do it, but again, as a newcomer, I didn’t feel like I had any position to make a scene about, you know, saying, ‘Hey, well, I’m supposed to go second.’”

Rizzo, added, “So I gave my stump speech.  I stayed within the allotted amount of time, whatever it was. And then Jack literally went, and I remember beginning to complain and talk to people at the table saying, ‘why did I stay within the minutes if Jack could just go and just give a 15 or 20 minute?’  I mean, he just he just went on to say whatever it is that he wanted to say, sort of ignoring the time limit rules.”

Afterward, Rizzo said he complained about his treatment, party leaders told him to “take it up with the attorneys.”

Following a losing run for governor, Rizzo felt he had a better understanding of how the nominating conventions work when he decided to run for Congress against Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Ringoes).

“What I sort of expected in my calculation is that we would have a vote.  Tom Kean would win it.  I would be solidly in second place,” said Rizzo.  “We’d go to a runoff, and that I would win.  That was our team’s math.  That would be the process.”

The campaign’s polling showed he was in “solidly in second everywhere.”

Asked if the convention process in other counties was fair, Rizzo said it was “fair and open with an asterisk.”

“I’m running for office to sort of shake up the establishment that I’m not part of?  And so I knew that there would always be something, but we were well prepared to challenge and make sure things were dealt with fairly as we challenge, but we weren’t expecting what actually took place.”

Rizzo questioned the accuracy of the count at the convention.

“It took a long time to even announce round one. They said the machines couldn’t handle voting. There was it was too many votes.  They were new machines.  There were there were irregularities.  There was problems., whatever that means, there was problems with the machines,” Rizzo stated.  “And by the time they announced it, basically all we got to was, here’s what happened in round one.  And then everybody got sent home, and there was a subsequent run-off, you know, whatever, days, weeks later, I don’t even know because apparently, I wasn’t part of it.”

Kean led the first ballot vote, 48 to 36, against John Henry Isemann, with Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) finishing fourth with 23 votes and 20 votes for Rizzo.   In the runoff one week later, Kean won, 88 to 42.

Those numbers caused Rizzo to believe the convention had somehow been stolen from him, something that might answer why he didn’t pay the $1,500 invoice but not why he didn’t pay upfront to begin with.

“Our data showed us that I am the second,  in the second position with all the other candidates and that in a head-to-head with the establishment candidate, which would be Tom Kean Jr., that we would win  head-to-head,” Rizzo said.  “That was our data going into our campaign.  The data that was revealed through all the other county conventions proved that Morris County is the outlier of the data.  Only Morris County’s data is skewed to what would be revealed in a fair election process.”

Rizzo further explained why he believed there was a plot against him.

“It’s the only one that puts me in a fourth position.  It was the only one that had pure chaos.  It’s the only one that had John Isemann not come in last place.  He came in second place in Morris County, which is again a serious outlier.  And then, on primary election Day in June, all of the data continued to bear itself out, and only Morris County.  It was an outlying statistical anomaly,” he said.  “And so, no, I do not believe that things were dealt with fairly and above board.  I do not believe I got the benefit of my bargain there.”

At the Hunterdon GOP convention, Isemann fnished with a strong third-place showing and Rizzo was a no-show.

Anthony DeSpirito, the executive director of the Morris County Republican Committee, had begun his testimony in December and finished today after being cross-examined by Rizzo’s attorney, Ronald Berutti.  Chatham Township Mayor Ashley Felice, who was a volunteer for the Morris GOP convention, also completed her testimony as Joseph Bell IV had her confirm Rizzo’s deal to pay $1,500 for a spot at the convention.

Rizzo said an ad he paid for at the convention was never served.

Berutti spent considerable time complaining that Morris County Republicans leaked a photo of Rizzo’s October court appearance to the New Jersey Globe.

But Superior Court Judge David Weaver told Berutti that the Globe had properly received permission from the Court to photograph Rizzo at the hearing.

While Bell rested his case today, Berutti said he still has two more witnesses.   Weaver indicated that he wants the next court session – the fifth on this matter – to be the last, and will schedule the completion of the trial soon.

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