State Sen. Gerald Cardinale on Monday said it was still possible for Republicans to take a countywide victory in an increasingly-blue Bergen, but claimed Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato was retaliating against Republican donors and volunteers in the county.
Cardinale said Stellato, who flatly denied the allegations, had continued a practice the senator said was first employed by former Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero, who led the party from 1998 to 2009 and was later convicted on corruption and bribery charges in two separate trials, though the U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the convictions in the former case.
“I have no idea what he’s talking about, no idea at all,” Stellato told the New Jersey Globe.
Cardinale said Ferriero would pull contracts of Republican donors unless they agreed to donate a larger sum to Democrats.
Ferriero’s convictions are not related to Cardinale’s accusations, which have never been tried or proven in a court of law.
“Somebody gave $1,000 to my campaign,” Cardinale said. “He would call that person up, and he would say ‘you gave $1,000. You’re an engineer. You’re going to lose this town, this town, this town, but you can make it up. You’ve got to give $4,000 now to me, and I’ll absolve you.’”
Bergen Republicans have seen their representation in the county drop precipitously over the past several years.
Democrats control all seven seats of the county’s Freeholder Board, as well as the county executive seat, the clerk’s office. Republicans hold no county-wide offices, though they do control two of the seven legislative districts representing parts of Bergen.
Still, Cardinale thinks his party can claw back the seats taken by Democrats over since the latter party’s takeover started in 2012.
“There’s a pendulum. Believe it or not, back in the 1970’s , we had a similar situation where Democrats were winning everything,” Cardinale said. “We didn’t have any republican freeholders anymore, like now. But remember, only three or four years ago, we had a majority in the field.”
Bergen County now has 89,647 more Democrats than Republicans. Five years ago, the last time Republicans won a countywide race, the registration gap was 59,912. In 2002, when Democrat Dennis McNerney was elected county executive and Ferriero took control of county government, the gap between Democrats and Republicans was just 6,268.