The coronavirus has caused Bergen County Democrats to cancel their nominating convention set for tomorrow evening and are moving toward an online vote.
“Due to the current concern over the coronavirus and the public health risks associated with large gatherings, we have come to the very difficult decision to cancel the Nominating Convention scheduled for tomorrow, March 12, in order to protect the health and safety of all county committee members, candidates, elected and party officials and staff who had planned to attend,” said Democratic county chairman Paul Juliano.
Details for the online vote is expected to be announced soon.
“To ensure that all county committee members will have the opportunity to have their voices heard, we will instead be moving forward with a virtual convention to allow voting via a secure online system,” Juliano said.
The Bergen Democratic convention could have drawn a crowd of more than 900 to award the organization line
In addition to the presidential contest between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, there are just two local contests slated for a vote: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) against Glen Rock councilwoman Arati Kreibich in the 5th district House race; and for two seats on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders.
Incumbent freeholder David Ganz is not seeking re-election to a seventh term. With the support of top party officials, 55 Democratic municipal chairs are backing incumbent Joan Voss and Ridgewood mayor Ramon Hache. Shahanaz Arjumand, a former Teaneck Board of Education member, is also seeking party support.
There is no competition in other races. Progressive candidates mounting primary challenges to U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Reps. Albio Sires (D-West New York) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-Paterson) did not file letters of intent to be on the convention ballot.
Anticipating attendance issues related to COVID-19 issues prior to Juliano’s decision to cancel the convention, Kreibich asked for a rules change to allow for absentee ballots.
Kreibich announced the endorsement of 40 Democratic county committee members from Bergen County this week. While Gottheimer is the heavy favorite to win the lone, Kreibich might have set her bar deliberately low.
“Providing remote access to large events to protect public health is quickly becoming a widespread practice in our community,” Kreibich said. “So while I’m excited for the Convention and confident that our campaign will overperform, I’m calling on the Democratic Committee of Bergen County (DCBC) to allow absentee voting. Otherwise, we will have a low-turnout convention that puts the Democrats who do attend at risk.”
Arjumand had asked party leaders to ban handshakes and hugs as a precautionary safety measure.
“I am especially concerned as several delegates are of high risk category — seniors over 60 — and a candidate Joan Voss is also of high risk category and she should not feel obligated to a hand shake,” Arjumand said. “I do not want to make her feel uncomfortable by shaking hands with delegates when I know she should not do that. Therefore, out of respect for her, I will not shake anyone hands. We all enjoy meeting people but this is not the right time or environment.”